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Vote Leave does not have a Monopoly on Patriotism

20th June, 2016

I love being English.  


But for some reason, despite winning two consecutive World Wars and the 1966 World Cup Final, some foreigners simply cannot accept that England is the best country in the Milky Way.  Maybe my vote can change all that.


Being thoroughly patriotic, it seems ridiculous to me that most people associate Vote Leave with somehow being more 'patriotic' than the Remain camp.  If we still lived in a world where a nation could be free to decide what happens within its own borders, I would understand this.  All these online quotes from Churchill about not being part of Europe would make sense.


But we no longer live in the 1940s, we no longer have an empire, and the greatest threat to our national sovereignty no longer comes from another country, or group of countries.  It comes from Corporate Powers that transcend nations.  The name for this is Neoliberalism.  Neo (new) freedom (liberalism) for corporations to stampede across a country’s will.  This is the world that has gradually been emerging since the 1970s. It is the actual world that we actually live in.  


If you really are patriotic, then instead of just quoting Churchill you will have read every volume of Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples, and all six volumes of The Second World War.  In light of that, you'd be pretty sure that - if he were alive today - someone  as perceptive and well informed as Churchill would be painfully aware of the dangers of Neoliberal ideology.


In a Neoliberal world, it doesn’t really matter what countries decide or how democracies vote. Corporations can sue countries for millions if that country passes laws that prevent them from making profit.  The corporate takeover of Britain eclipses all other dangers that British people will face in the next generation.  It is an anti democratic takeover happening under our noses, while our attention is diverted to dangers that are trivial by comparison.


Why has our government not warned us about this? Because our government has been pushing hard within the EU to promote deals (such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) that allow corporations to steamroll over the rights of British people.  Outside of the EU (who, yes, are in drastic need of reform) Britain could slowly devolve into corporate servitude.


If we leave the EU, in other words, our government is free to open our borders to the will of Corporate powers hell-bent on squeezing profit out of our citizens.  That is why Vote Leave is unwittingly unpatriotic.  Sure, there might be fewer laws imposed on Britain from Europe.  But there could, beyond all doubt, be far more signficant and far more damaging laws that would quietly continue to erode British sovereignty.  Unfortunately, these central questions have not featured in the mainstream of the debate.  


They will however (if Leave gets its way).  Once the complexities of renegotiated trade laws make it easier for large companies to operate outside Britain (which means we lose jobs), and corporate investors get to swoop into a deluded nation desperate to trade with whoever it can (which means we lose our NHS).  Then the Leavers will complain no one could have known, that nasty foreigners are being horrible to British workers, British companies, and British Public Services.  But it's what Leavers are voting for: being freed from EU regulation means removing safeguards that evolved over a generation or more. They are complex, tangled, boring, non-newsworthy, but essential to our economic health because they protect us from the dark side of the Market.  To vote leave would be to issue an invitation for our country to lose all that and be ruined by Neoliberal capitalism.


Given the current climate, by leaving the EU we would sell the soul of our nation to the Market.  Picture the Queen’s horse-drawn carriage with “sponsored by Cocoa Cola” on its door, our Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with the McDonalds logo tattooed on its wings, or – worst of all – Stephen Fry himself appearing in an EE advert.  There is nothing inherently wrong about all that.  It's just doesn't seem very patriotic.