Britons want to exit Austerity, not the EU

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(to be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

Da’esh supporters are celebrating the Brexit vote, and claiming that the “rise of the Islamic State” is bringing about the disintegration of the European Union.  They are retroactively claiming that creating a desperate refugee crisis, de-populating Syria and driving thousands of horrified, traumatized, poor Muslims to seek asylum in Europe, was part of their master plan all along.  Never mind the fact that they bitterly criticized any Syrians who chose to seek refuge in the “Infidel West”.  By forcing people in Iraq and Syria to flee for their lives, Da’esh claims, they have successfully flooded Europe with refugees and created a volatile and divisive atmosphere throughout the EU, which has led to the UK referendum on the Brexit.

So, let’s analyze that.  Certainly, immigration was on the minds of many Britons when they voted to leave the European Union.  They are afraid their culture is being taken over by foreigners; afraid their jobs will be lost to foreigners; afraid foreigners will cause a drop in wages; afraid foreigners will drain the social welfare services paid for by British taxpayers. OK, fair enough.

But look, the UK has agreed to resettle only 20,000 Syrian refugees over the course of the next 5 years. Yes, 4,000 refugees per year until 2021. Around 333,000 people immigrated to the UK last year; in other words Syrian refugees comprise only a tiny fraction of total immigration.  That doesn’t mean that Britons do not incorrectly perceive that Syrian refugees are flooding the country, I’m sure many do; but that is attributable to the distortive propaganda of Right Wing parties and the media, not to Da’esh.

So, what is the reason for this kind of propaganda? The exaggerated fear of refugees and immigrants is occurring within the context of Austerity, domestically applied Neoliberalism, and the gutting of public resources by the private sector. It is occurring within the context of the bailout of Greece, and the justified popular paranoia that as long as Britain remains part of the EU, they will not be able to keep Europe’s hands off their pocketbooks.

Understood properly, the Brexit vote was a vote against Austerity, but no one gets to vote on Austerity, so this was their only outlet for protest.

When millions of voters said they wanted to leave the EU, what they were actually saying was that they want £350 million to be allocated to the National Health Service every week, because that is what they had been told the Brexit meant.  One of the major points of the “Leave Campaign” was precisely this; that hundreds of millions of pounds now being channeled to the EU would be redirected to domestic public spending, which has been drastically reduced in recent years under government Austerity measures. If the referendum had been “Do you want to leave the EU and continue Austerity, or do you want to remain in the EU and end Austerity?” I don’t think the results would be difficult to predict.  Obviously, the ruling corporate elites know this too, that’s why no such referendum could ever take place.

So, why would these elites promote the Brexit?  Well, as UK Independence Party leader and former commodities broker Nigel Farage said, “we have a £10 billion a year, £34 million a day feather bed, that is going to be free money we can spend…”.  The “Leave Campaign” implied that this “feather bed” would be enjoyed by the general public, but the UKIP supported David Cameron’s Austerity budget measures, and  accepts the argument that reducing Britain’s deficit should take priority over all else (the basic logic behind Austerity), so there is little indication that those who campaigned for the Brexit will fight for funding of public services.  In fact, they have already backtracked from the very promises they used in this regard to win votes for the British exit from the EU.

So no, sorry Da’esh; you did not cause the Brexit.  If the EU is disintegrating (which remains to be seen) it is disintegrating because of the greed of domestic elites who want to devour the money currently being allocated to the EU.  The most we can say is that Da’esh and the Neoliberals share a common disregard for the general public, but that is not something Da’esh has ever seemed to comprehend, and, if their triumphalist rhetoric over the Brexit is any indication, it appears they never will.

 

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