Here we have it, from the horse’s mouth, no less: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-news-latest-brexit-philip-hammond-no-deal-radicals-a9124186.html. You can’t get much more horsey than the man who was Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer just a few weeks ago. The ‘no deal’ Brexit movement is being financed and perhaps driven, claims Hammond, by rich hedge-fund speculators hoping to profit from the damage that Brexit will do to the pound sterling and to the British economy.
This is not by itself proof that the whole thing is a ‘capitalist conspiracy’ – in the sense that it is this ‘conspiracy’ that has been the root cause of the current crisis. But, together with the social statuses of the men who are leading the Brexit campaign – Public school and all that – it must at least do something to undermine the myth that they’re trying to put over, that they represent the ‘ordinary folk’ of Britain against the ‘élite’; the ‘people versus Parliament’. That of course, as every historian knows, was a favourite line of just about every Fascist movement in the last century. (I wouldn’t call Boris a ‘Fascist’, yet. But ‘Proto-’: certainly.)
Then there are all those threats of violence, murder and civil war coming from the Right, if it doesn’t get its way. They’re posted as ‘warnings’, but read very much – and are clearly intended to – as threats. So does the war imagery that is being employed now by the Brexiteers. Johnson, for example, is inveighing against Britain’s ‘surrendering’ to the EU over the Benn Act (which won’t allow him to conclude a ‘No’ deal without Parliament’s consent). That and others of his metaphors – ‘treachery’, and so on – have introduced into the debate images that seem better suited to a war situation; which Britain’s negotiations with the EU are surely not. You ‘surrender’ to threats of violence. Or not, as I hope.
Whether or not this whole thing can be categorised as a ‘capitalist conspiracy’ at root, it has certainly been exploited cleverly by one or more of our genuine conspiratorial élites. To repeat: hardly any of that famous 52% of the British population who voted for Brexit in June 2016 had cared at all about the EU before that vote. But they had been suffering under Austerity, and felt neglected by the Conservatives and the whole political class (especially up here in the North) for years; whereupon they were offered a vote which they felt they could use as a protest, nothing more; and a clearly visible scapegoat for their sufferings in the persons of those foreigners over the North Sea. (Cf. Germany in the 1930s, with the Depression, and the Jews.) The real villains of the piece – not the ‘people’, but the Right-wing élite – seized upon this to carry out their own agenda; which however will only become clear when they’ve finally won their ‘no deal Brexit’. At present Boris is obscuring this agenda with his sudden ‘One Nation’ promises of social reform. That has been a historical proto-Fascist ploy also. All the other signs from his camp, however, indicate a neo-liberal and pro-American ambition for Britain. (See https://bernardjporter.com/2019/07/29/a-special-relationship/.) We’ll see what the next few weeks brings.
Just as Philip Hammond doesn’t recognise the present Conservative party as ‘his’ party, I don’t recognise the present United Kingdom as ‘mine’. Perhaps I’ve been wrong about Britain all along; choosing – in my historical writings, for example – to over-emphasise its liberal, tolerant and internationalist aspects. My first book was about the ‘anti-imperialists’, after all. I still think that the principles upheld by those men and women reflected an important historical strain in British society. But Farage, Boris and Rees-Mogg, and the ‘patriotic’ thugs that are backing them and adding to the menace in the streets, represent something entirely different.
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Just one point. I’m surprised that you refer to “that famous 52% of the British population who voted for Brexit”, unless there was an irony intended, which I missed. The 17.4 million, of course, were not 52% of the British population; they were 52% of 70% of those registered to vote. That reduces them to about 37% or even less, depending on how many UK citizens, aged 18 or over, there were at that time – surprisingly, it’s difficult to find out.
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Yes, you’re absolutely right. I think my ‘famous’ was meant to indicate irony!