The timing of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU could not be better for those on the right and far right of the political spectrum. In the wake of a refugee crisis, which has seen public sympathy for the plight of the huge numbers of people fleeing conflict and chaos in the Middle East and North Africa turn first to apathy and now to something approaching hostility in many quarters, combined with the collapse of the centre ground across Europe and the US, which I explore in detail here, the prospects of Brexit coming to pass are greater now than they have ever been.
This collapse of the centre ground has not only benefited the right, of course. In the US, while the odious Donald Trump looks a shoe-in for the Republican Party nomination while spouting the kind of rhetoric which in a civilised society would seen him institionalised rather than lauded as a future president, Bernie Sanders has also attracted huge support, evidence that socialism and socialist ideas are no longer taboo in the land of the free. Sanders, in fact, has lit up the Democratic Party primaries with a camopaign that has seen the 74 year old democratic socialist senator from Vermont trounce Hillary Clinton in debate after debate.
But back to the UK and the EU referendum, where despite the attempt by a section of the left to assert that Brexit would make the prospect of implementing progressive and socialist ideas easier – specifically when it comes to taking key industries and services into public ownership – the reality is that the beneficiaries of Brexit would be the right and far right. The politics driving Brexit are the ugly politics of anti immigration, xenophobia, and British nationalism. If successful it would propel the vile reactionary views and worldview of people like Nigel Farage into the heart of the establishment, ensuring that already under pressure minority communities would find themselves placed under even more pressure.
The EU and its insitutions merely reflect the economic and political hegemony of neoliberalism. They are a transmission belt delivering policies which reflect this hegemony, which will remain a fact of life the day after Brexit. This is why those on the left who are intent on campaiging for a No vote on June 23 are playing into the hands of Nigel Farage and UKIP, allowing themselves to be recruited as unwitting footsoldiers for the far right.
There is also the Corbyn factor to consider. At a time when Labour under his leadership is garnering such huge support across the country, and with the Tories in complete disarray over the EU, for anyone on the left to oppose Corbyn over the EU now is tantamount to sectarianism of the worst kind.
There is no viable socialist or progressive case for Britain’s exit from the EU in the present political climate. There is only surrender to right wing nostrums on immigration, multiculturalism, and something called British values.