It’s hard to see who has a material interest in Brexit happening.
Political interests, yes, of course (Boris Johnson). Irrational ideological leanings, for sure (John Redwood). People swept up in currents beyond their control, lamentably (Michael Gove, the electorate). Many who voted Brexit did so honourably. I did – but not imagining for a moment that it would advance our economic interests. I did so in order to inflict a mortal wound on the Conservative Party – which seems, incidentally, to have been a successful strategy. Many did for reasons of disillusionment with the wealthy and ruling classes – did Richard Branson really think that urging the working classes to vote Remain would see them scurrying after the Pied Piper??
But if the mantra is true that ‘we are all in this together’, then the damage and disadvantage wreaked by leaving the second largest economic unit in the world will be visited on us all. It may be visited on us unequally, of course, since those who have reaped the benefits of inequality may sow the harvest of a proportionate reduction of wealth.
So there’s a hidden benefit!
Nonetheless, the corporate state has not expended money and effort since the Great Thatcherite Emancipation to securing dominance of the political agenda just to stand back and see it drain away with a slice of the City of London. There are political niceties and cautions to be observed, even by predatory bankers, and so we have seen and heard little from the plutocracy in the wake of the expression of ‘the will of the people’. But we should not imagine for a moment that they will happily march out of a major trading bloc that yields up conducive monetarist policies, tolerates the erosion of worker rights, has no response to burgeoning economic inequities, evades the economic burden of a proper response to migration, and carefully maintains the confortable wealth disparities between northern and southern countries.
There are, perhaps, some signs of stirring. One – again, perhaps – is the slow drip of semi-approving messages from such as the CBI and Blue Bay Asset Management [https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/24/hedge-fund-talks-with-shadow-chancellor-show-new-interest-in-labour]. There seems to be a better prospect with Labour of watering down Brexit to Kleenex ‘softness’, maybe to do away with it altogether. There is even the tantalising promise of a renaissance of Tony Blair influence.
Now, what does Theresa May make of all this? One could be forgiven for thinking that in the swirling clouds of incompetence, contradiction and confusion May finds a suitable camouflage for a softly, softly approach. Such is, of course, poisonously dangerous, so we would not expect to see even a suggestion of a hemline. But is it tendentious to assume that every concession that follows gaffe and controversy is a product of her weakness and political ineptness? I am not for a moment suggesting that Theresa May is a quiet, conspiratorial genius, manipulating events by cleverly allowing spinning plates to fall strategically. Such adroitness and cast-iron courage falls to none lesser in stature than Margaret Thatcher and Lyndon Johnson. No – above all, May lacks the political steel to choose the more obvious route of fronting down the truly weak and incompetent Brexit extremists. But the fact is that month-on-month Brexit has been softened while the extremists have blown themselves out.