Who gains from Brexit?

We are in the third year since the 2016 post Referendum, and in this period we have seen the exit date moved twice, the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May, the unlawful progogation/suspension of and Parliament, and Parliament passing legislation forcing the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. to seek a third extension. There is every likelihood that the consequences of the referendum will not be resolved until sometime in the next decade, perhaps longer.

The SPGB argument is that the working class has no interest in supporting either Remain or Brexit. We have argued that the issue of remaining or leaving is a question for the capitalist class and their politicians. Large corporations and other capitalists want Britain to remain in the EU for very good trading reasons and ease of exporting and importing. The Society of Motor Manufactures Motor car industry and Traders (SMMT) were for remaining in the EU and gave as their reasons: access to a skilled workforce, ability to influence industry regulations and standards, economic and market stability and securing the UK's global competiveness

Arron Banks, a leading supporter of Brexit, gave £450,000 funding to Nigel Farage after the brexit vote which provided Farage with a Chelsea home, car and money to promote him in the US (GUARDIAN 17 May 2019). Lord Sainsbury spent nearly £8 million trying to avert Brexit (TELEGRAPH 25 August 2016). Capitalists gave £31,834,885 to both sides of the campaign to stay in or to leave. More than half of the money donated to EU referendum campaigns came from just ten wealthy donors (INDEPENDENT 7 October 2016).

What of the other Brexit capitalists. There are those in the European Research Group who want close ties with the US and commonwealth countries like Canada, New Zealand and Australia; a different capitalist free market trading bloc. Philip Hammond, the former chancellor, claimed that Johnson was backed by speculators who have bet billions on a hard Brexit. Even Johnson's sister, Rachel, speculated that her brother was in thrall to hedge fund managers, so-called "disaster capitalists" betting on Britain crashing out of the EU. Socialists dismiss conspiracy theories. It is capitalism and capitalist interests that call the tune, not the mysterious machinations of sinister people behind the scenes. And there are hedge funds owned by capitalists who support Remain.

However there is a grain of truth about the allegations that many hedge funds support Brexit and the rational and non-conspiratorial reasons why they want Britain to leave the EU. Recently, Simon Nixon, chief leader-writer of the TIMES, explained why some hedge funds see a chance to call the shots by backing Johnson and Brexit (3 October 2019).

Here are the main passages from his article.

"One of the surprises of Brexit has been the strong support for leaving the European Union in some parts of the City and among a handful of Britain's wealthiest entrepreneurs. This support is in contrast with the continued anxiety over Brexit among the bulk of Britain's business leaders. Yet this division among Britain's business elite is perhaps not so surprising when one considers the extent to which the two groups sit on different sides of an important faultline in global capitalism. What makes hedge fund support for Mr Johnson significant is not that they are representatives of disaster capitalism but that they are manifestations of what might be dubbed "oligarchic capitalism"

And he continues:

"The hedge fund industry sits at the apex of the shadowy world of offshore finance that emerged in London in recent decades. This world is quite distinct from the traditional business of the City, which is serving as a domestic capital market for British and, since the creation of the single market, EU companies. Titans of the hedge fund industry insist that they owe their fortunes to their unrivalled acumen for trading. In reality, they owe much of their success to the unique conditions that made London such fertile ground for the development of their astonishingly lucrative activities. They are the beneficiaries of the explosive growth in global offshore finance that followed the dismantling of exchange controls around the world, the collapse of communism and the emergence of a new global class of super-rich seeking to shield their wealth from national authorities...)"

And he concludes that the hedge fund industry operating in the unregulated world of offshore finance resented the EU's recent attempts to bring it under control with new regulations such as the introduction of the Alternative Investment Managers Directive. There are capitalists who do not like being constrained by rules and regulations and want to be completely free to do what they want and when.

This is all a far cry away from the interest of the working class. Workers have no interest in the concerns of importers and exporters; of financiers, bankers, hedge funds and supermarket magnates. Workers have no interest in capitalism and how it is regulated and every interest in its abolition. No matter which way the Brexit dispute goes workers will remain an exploited class producing profits for a parasitical minority.

While the Remain camp rouse fears of mass unemployment in the case of a disorderly 'no deal' Brexit, we all know that there can be mass unemployment within the EU. Nor can we suppose the indignant calls about "Leave Means Leave!" and loud claims of "Betrayal!" over talk of the real difficulty of trying to create a deal in Ireland. In capitalism borders matter and they matter to the EU too with its borders patrolled by gunships and guards and miserable and cruel refugee camps. Nothing is said by Remain supporters about the locking out from Europe immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. Yet gallons of ink is spilt by remainers on the Northern Ireland border and of complying with the Good Friday Agreement insisted on by Dublin and most of the Northern Ireland parties but detested by the Tory government's allies, the extreme Unionist MPs of the DUP, who have to be placated with their handful of Commons votes: none of this will solve the very real problems facing workers.

Whether or not Britain is part of the EU will be decided on matters other than the interests of the working class. And the whole Brexit issue has been used as an opportunity to generate the divisive rhetoric of nationalism and xenophobia, with ignorant and invidious allegations that EU immigrants are sponging on the NHS and welfare, and aggravating housing problems. Such divisiveness is against our interests - we need to unite.

Socialists argue as ever that the working class everywhere has a shared interest in uniting as a class "without distinction of race or sex" to put an end to this worldwide capitalist system of production for profit, a system which keeps us forever in a servile and subservient state, as wage slaves working to enrich a minority.

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Object and Declaration of Principles


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Declaration of Principles


1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.