In the Tory referendum campaign like many I argued for an “ever closer union” of the European working class. Greater working class co-operation and integration through European trade unions and European wide workers parties is needed, along with and part of a European democratic revolution. The aim of this revolution is to create a United States of Europe, as a federal, social and secular republic by overthrowing the current neo-liberal European Union.
The EU is not a United States of Europe, but the EU has made a European democratic revolution more possible and more necessary. The UK working class has therefore good revolutionary reasons to remain in the EU. The UK leaving the EU does not invalidate the aim of a ‘United States of Europe’. Socialists fought for this over a hundred years ago before the EU existed, and we should continue even if the EU dissolves into a European war between rising racial nationalisms.
Today the British Crown’s negotiating position is being kept secret, but Teresa May, speaking at the Tory Party conference, highlighted two significant points. First “I want to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade and operate in the single market – and let European businesses do the same”. She did not, however, support the equivalent freedom for EU workers. Playing to a racist gallery she said “But let me be clear, we are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again”. (Guardian 3 October 2016).
Second she declared “we will negotiate as one United Kingdom and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom. There is no opt out from Brexit and I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious union between the four nations of or United Kingdom”. (Conference speech reported on Newsnight 2 October 2016). There will be no self determination. Scotland will leave EU whatever the people think or want.
In these quotes are the fundamentals of Tory “Brexit” based on a majority (52%) voting for leave. The Prime Minister declared that “Brexit means Brexit”. But what does Brexit mean? There has been much speculation. British Exit is founded on patriotic British Unionism with an emphasis on immigration. It is the rebirth of Gordon Brown’s ‘British jobs for British workers’. Naturally the big corporations and the City are deciding what kind of British Exit serves them best. The Tory press have come up with “hard” and “soft” Brexit to provide room for manoeuvre.
So it is incumbent on socialists and the working class movement to do the same, work out the best option and fight for it. After the referendum the working class is more divided than ever. We have to fight to unite workers across both sides of the great 52-48 divide. Republican socialists must provide the working class movement with our own terms to describe the same process. Instead of the Tory “Brexit” we should think of Democratic Exit or Dexit.
A few facts and principles are necessary. The total number of eligible voters was 46.5 million and the total votes cast were 33.5 million. The full voting was as follows: Leave vote 17.4m, Remain vote 16.1m and Abstain 12.9m. Hence 37.4% voted to leave, 34.6% voted to remain, and 27.7% abstained. Hence taking account of abstentions, sixty two percent (62%) of eligible voters did not vote to leave the EU.
This is not the full story. There are valid democratic objections to Dave’s Dodgy referendum. EU citizens resident in the UK from Ireland, Malta and Cyprus were allowed to vote. But Polish, Germans or Italians living here, for example, were not. This was blatant discrimination and ballot rigging. There were also about 1.5 million 16-18 year olds denied a vote on their future. These missing voters would likely have delivered a different outcome.
The abstentions and excluded voters must not be forgotten or ignored. But the different majorities are the most important democratic consideration. England voted by 53.4% to leave. Wales voted by 52.5% to leave. But Scotland voted 62% to remain. Northern Ireland is part of the Irish nation and a constituent part of the UK. People there voted 55.8% to remain. Taken as a whole, Ireland wants to remain in the EU. The UK is a multi-nation state and the right of nations to self determination is essential to maintain national unity or allow peaceful separation. On such an important issue this principle is in play.
Democratic Exit presents a fuller and more complex picture of the popular vote. Millions abstained. Millions were excluded. A large minority voted to remain. There were different majorities in the different nations. The Tories have narrowed this in the term “Brexit” to mean one majority for one Britain, and one interpretation that plays to racist sentiments. English voters decide the outcome and immigration is Brexit’s Great Distraction as the Tory press fan the flames of racism. Whilst the people are looking in that direction, the City is escaping with all the EU loot!
Democratic Exit means that England and Wales leave the EU and Scotland and Northern Ireland remain in it. This will solve the Irish border issue and help the process of uniting Ireland. The EU borders with England and Wales will now be Ireland, Scotland and France. Trade will continue. Scotland and Northern Ireland will still be represented in the UK and EU parliaments. The Scottish and Irish people will still have their European passports, not have to pay for a new one and enjoy being able to travel and work freely in the rest of Europe.
Democratic Exit is the result each country voted for. It does not necessarily mean the end of the UK, rather a flexible adaptation to the different majorities. In Denmark and Greenland we have one state and two countries – one inside and one outside the EU. So the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland and their parliaments should be fully involved in the negotiations. Until 2019 we will still be operating with the same EU laws. By then the Scottish and Northern Irish should have their own representatives in the European Council and European Parliament. A trade deal with Scotland should easy!
The Tories and Unionists will never accept a Democratic Exit because they will see it as another step towards the breakup of the UK. Taken together the referendums in Scotland in 2014 and 2016 mean the majority want to remain in the UK and the EU. The SNP government has taken a cautious approach and not demanded a referendum on Scottish independence. But if the British Crown cannot or will not enable Scotland to remain in the EU and the UK, then the Scottish people have to make a choice – between continuing as part of Little England’s Union or remaining in the much bigger European Union.
It is clear, confirmed by May’s speech at the Tory conference, the British Crown will never deliver a Democratic Exit. It will be ‘too difficult’, ‘too complicated’ and ‘impossible’. The Tories will put every argument and every obstacle in the way of a Democratic Exit. So Scotland will have to clear the decks for battle. This time it will be a real fight and will require the left in England to join in and not sit on their hands like last time. Scotland’s Dexit will open up the road to democratic revolution. In the next blog I will look at what workers in England and Wales should do.