2007 - 2021

Whither Remain or will Remain wither?

Phil Vellender highlights some of the problems the Left in England have in relating to political developments in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Some Remain voters are setting up ‘Rejoin EU ASAP’ groups. This is an entirely understandable reaction to a traumatic hard Brexit that no one voted for, and certainly many would not vote for again, given all the evidence we now have of the shenanigans and empty promises involved in the Cummings-Elliot Leave EU campaign. But before we expend a lot of energy on a project with, let’s face it, scant chance of success as things stand now, it might be timely to address some domestic constitutional matters those ‘yearning to return’ may have overlooked when they unreservedly and single-mindedly backed the People’s Vote campaign, and its demand for a ‘Second Referendum’.

Among these domestic matters, specifically, was a reluctance for Remainers to fully take into account Scotland and Northern Ireland’s own Remain vote as well as the growing desire for independence in Scotland, and the increasing likelihood of an ever younger Northern Irish population pressing for reunification with the Irish Republic. In short, Remainers now need to begin a reassessment of their views on the Union and, yes, as important, turn their attention to the archaic and arcane, profoundly undemocratic, constitutional monarchy and the Crown/ Executive that currently governs us. It may be very dry-sounding material, but it is now vital.

The People’s Vote campaign has drawn fire on two main grounds. First, that it was ultimately undemocratic, seeking to overturn the June 2016 result and, second, that in the minds of many of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, it was really engaged in giving succour to Labour’s right wingers (eg those backing Tom Watson and Peter Mandelson) who wanted to further destabilise Corbyn’s leadership.

Clearly, Remainers will have to do better than just re-running the failed 2016 Remain and 2018-19 People’s Vote campaigns. Remainers are probably right to claim that opinion has shifted since 2016. As a republican socialist Remainer, I really hope this is the case. However, any future campaign that does not centre itself on the principle of democracy in general and the inalienable democratic rights of Scotland to become independent and, ultimately vote to rejoin the EU, as well as Northern Ireland’s right to vote on reunification, in particular, would be risking a repeat of the iteration of the People’s Vote Second Referendum campaign, which was aimed at, and led by, predominantly English liberal-Unionist Remainers who were, almost to a person, utterly uninterested in the rights of Scotland and NI to decide their relationship with the EU.

There are still many Remain groups, but for our purposes here I’ll cite one, Best for Britain. This organisation’s name exemplifies many of underlying contradictions which may explain why Remain failed to convince last time and risks failure once more. ‘Best for Britain’ points to an unhealthy and enduring preoccupation with a predominantly English nationalism (despite the ostensible use of the term ‘British’) which was a significant prime mover for triggering Brexit in the first place, although later both Leave and Remain campaigners invoked ‘Englishness’ to varying degrees.

This Best for Britain, ‘slogan-as-name’ sits quite happily with the rancid racism of Gordon Brown’s dictum, ‘British jobs for British workers’. Its continued use post Brexit indicates a failure to understand that, in the not too distant, Brexit future, Remainers won’t necessarily be talking about a ‘Britain’ anymore, because now that ‘Brexit has got done’, in all probability Remain Scotland will vote for independence and apply to rejoin the EU, while Northern Ireland will vote for reunification with the Irish Republic. Worse still for liberal Remainers, many being sentimental Unionists, recent polling shows one in three people in Wales are now pro-Welsh independence too. Consequently, if English Remainers want to rejoin an almost entirely republican Europe, they will have to dial down on their own versions of English nationalism, rediscover England’s historic republican tradition(s) and renounce their unexamined attachment to the anachronistic, 1707 Tory-confected Union.

The ‘Better Together’ fakery of IndyRef1 in 2014, which promised the Scots a ‘No’ vote would mean continued EU membership, is what signed Labour’s death warrant north of the border and, along with Brexit itself, has precipitated the (slow) death of the Union. Remain’s enduring commitment to Free Movement, its openness to international culture and internationalism generally, is definitely the right direction to follow henceforth, as a vital counterweight to right-wing European populism. However, in order to consolidate and protect this optimistic, solidaristic, internationalist spirit, Remain will need to open up the entire constitutional debate and argue for democratic constitutional change in this country. In other words, find an answer to the ‘English question’ as the Tory Union gradually, or not, disintegrates.

Our tin-pot, essentially Tory, notion of democracy is not only totally unfit for domestic purposes, but, in addition, has proved itself wholly incapable of coherent decision making and constructively engaging with our nearest international partners. However, unless and until we Remainers grasp the nettle of democratising our own state, ie the Crown, and our hopelessly anachronistic institutions, we will continue to ‘remain’ in the same pitifully infantilised condition we have existed in for decades. What’s more, Left Remainers, especially, need to adopt a broad constitutional reform agenda.  It’s hard to suppress a wry smile now when reflecting on the absurd arrogance of the Another Europe Is Possible campaign’s claim that they wanted to ‘remain in the EU’ and ‘democratically reform’ it? How ridiculously ironic this sounds, emanating as it did from a country which claims to be ‘modern democracy’ yet whose fundamental constitutional and political structures have remained ‘unreformed’ since the Glorious Revolutionary period of 1688-1714!

Therefore, it is on the demanding task of wholesale democratic reform of this confused, and confusing, political state of England, that Remainers will now need to focus. The people of Scotland and Northern Ireland know where their future lies: out of the Union and in a productively, integrated relationship with Europe. We English Remainers, on the other hand (and this will include what remains of the English Left too, of course) are going to have to do the heaviest of this constitutional ‘heavy lifting’ if we want to entertain even the faintest prospect of following our fellow Scottish and Northern Irish citizens when they return to a 21st century, democratic, republican and federal Europe.





Comments (16)

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  1. MacNaughton says:

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I really don’t think the Europeans will let England or the UK back into the European Union.
    At least, not for a very long time…

    At the best, they’d let England back into the Single Market and the Customs Unions.
    But why would they want England back at the political table?
    The UK / England has been driving the Europeans round the bend for years and years…

    Remember that Charles De Gaulle vetoed the UK entering the EU in the first instance.
    He said he did not trust the UK govt, because they would take the side of the Americans in any disputes…
    This is what happened effectively, with Trump and Johnson lining up together about a year ago now, and with Johnson creaming his pants at a swift US-UK trade deal with the now thoroughly disgraced POTUS…

    As the guy (Javi) said to me in the photocopy shop this morning here in Spain, “What more do they want? They kept their own currency, they had all these privileges, they had all these opt outs and special concessions, and it still wasn’t good enough for them”)…

    1. MacNaughton says:

      I mean, the thing is Phil Vellender, the PM of the United Kingdom isn’t even house-trained…

      Domestic animals, and their masters, are instructed or else obliged – forced to learn the hard way in some cases – to clean up their own mess after them… Anybody who has a dog will know this (I don’t, but I have eyes in my head).

      Boris Johnson doesn’t classify as a house-trained PM of the United Kingdom, because Boris Johnson hasn’t cleaned up his mess after himself, he has passed it on to the 27 nation States of the EU….

      Who or what is that mess? Us, we British nationals in EU countries… What to do with us?

      The governments / States of the 27 nation States of the EU are going to have to come up with a special status for us. They have agreed to respect our pre Brexit rights, so they can’t just lump us in with the Brits who come over to live in Europe from now on (who will have Visas). Yet, at the same time, our papers now states we are EU citizens etc etc, which we no longer are…

      So, what are the 27 nation States going to do with 1.5 million UK citizens? They’ll have to create new papers for us probably…

      This problem should have been foreseen by the UK govt, and the UK govt should have offered a solution…

      Instead, the UK have basically disowned us in all but name, and we must rely on the tender mercies of the governments of EU nations to protect our Maastricht rights….

      And that is just one of many such messy problem the disgraceful Boris Johnson government have left behind. There will be many, many more…

      Like I said, a UK PM who doesn’t even qualify as properly house trained…

      1. MacNaughton says:

        I mean, think about the chaos they have left behind, these unbearable, nightmare politicians of the English political scene…

        Why should I who have lived in Europe almost all my adult life lose my rights to freedom movement? I’m absolutely furious about it, incandescent…

        Why did the English government not stand up in the negotiations to protect our rights to freedom of movement? Why did they not include us as a subset of the settled status thing and guarantee our rights with a special EU passport or something. The very last people I would choose to defend my rights are Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and that gimp Jacob Rees-Mogg… BUT THAT IS THEIR JOB.

        And you’re talking about England coming back in? I would walk the length and breadth of Spain to prevent that happening.

        You’re out, and you can stay out until the people of England spend the money and time investing in learning a foreign language and culture, like the other 450 million Europeans do learning English….that is half the problem you see?

        1. Axel P Kulit says:

          “Why did the English government not stand up in the negotiations to protect our rights to freedom of movement? ”

          Because then they would have to let more Poles and Eastern Europeans in. Or at least that is what they told us. Brexit is a resutl of English racism and xenophobia.

          Plus if we had freedom of movement the plebs might start thinking things were done better in the EU than in UK.

      2. Axel P Kulit says:

        The EU are fed up with us and the officials who have had to put up with English entitlement for decades will not be happy to see a special class of UK Immigrant created.

        Those who have decided to live there will have to apply for citizenship. NO concessions on knowing the language. Extra financial hurdles.

        We ( the UK) are OUT. If we go back it will be as supplicants. How would we stand for readmission? We won’t. We will have to grovel.

        Scotland may get better treatment from both the EU and US, which could make us honest brokers between the two.

      3. MacNaughton says:

        And what happens if one of the nation States of the EU doesn’t in fact recognize the Maastricht rights of British citizens living in Europe? I haven’t studied the deal, but I would be very surprised if we can go to the European Courts with it.

        I mean, I know this will come as a shock to millions of people living in the UK, but Brexit is a sideshow here. The Member States of the EU are all very busy with their own problems, not least Covid. Why should they prioritize a few thousand British passport holders who have been betrayed by their own government by setting up a new status for us? A status destined to diminish over the years, a dwindling band of Green Card holders in Spain – 300,000 now, maybe just 100,000 ten years from now, 50,000 a few years later…etc?

        This is the thing about THE IDIOTS who voted for Brexit. None of you thought it through. Cameron didn’t think it through when he called the referendum. He didn’t even think up a campaign, he copied the Scottish independence Project Fear campaign which, in an any case, did not work (it was the Vow which worked, NOT Project Fear). The Opposition, the hapless Labour Party didn’t think it through, led by the worst leader of the Labour Party in history, a guy who comes up with a typically opaque slogan – “constructive ambiguity” – as a cover for DOING NOTHING TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF EU CITIZENS IN UK AND UK CITIZENS IN THE EU. Nor did Nicola Sturgeon think it through… They were all thinking about their own party political interests. Nicola Sturgeon wasn’t going to dirty her hands with Brexit in any shape or form. The feeble minded Corbyn took about two years to even come up with a position on Brexit…

        You have made a total mess of the lives of millions of people. Those EU residents in the UK at least a) maintain freedom of movement and b) have a very clear legal status.

        But the UK residents in Europe are shafted. We are in no man’s land. We are at the mercy of the States we reside in and must rely their goodwill.

        Never in the modern history of 20th Century Britain have a group of citizens been so carelessly betrayed and abandoned…

        What an absolute DISGRACE of a country….


        1. Jenny says:

          I know of several families who voted Brexit then moved to Spain. I really couldn’t understand their thought processes at all but I do feel they have helped to screw me over ((along with millions of others of course). I should’ve stayed in France and claimed citizenship … but family reasons brought me back and now I’ve lost the opportunity. I am sooooo fed up with this country’s political leaders I could cry ….

          1. MacNaughton says:

            Hi Jenny,

            Yep, you’d be surprised how many English people I have met in Spain in favour of Brexit…

            Please take away my rights to travel freely in Europe and look for employment anywhere in the EU!!!
            Please take away my right to vote at EU and local elections!!!
            Please take away my rights to have recourse to European justice!!!

            Idiots. But it shows just how brainwashed people in England are against the EU. It’s frightening…

            One guy, apparently a journalist and long term resident in Spain, said to me about the EU, “We don’t know half of what they get up to…”

            When I mentioned losing freedom of movement, he replied, “Well, I wasn’t planning on leaving Spain, so I don’t care about that….”

            As their football fans sing, “We are England, we are England, no one likes us, we don’t care…”

            And they don’t care…

    2. Axel P Kulit says:

      At the moment you are right, but things can change.

      If we ARE allowed back in the EU will be careful NOT to give us privileges and restrict damage we can do if we side with US.

      1. MacNaughton says:

        If the rUK tries to get back into the EU, I will personally drop everything I am doing and dedicate the rest of my life on this earth to prevent that from happening.

        Not one single second more of Europe’s time and the European project should be wasted on the insular, monoglot, money-obsessed, xenophobic country of England please…

        They are now out, and as far as I am concerned, they should not be allowed back in. At least not in my lifetime…

        1. Axel P Kulit says:

          I suspect you are far from alone in that attitude.

  2. MacNaughton says:

    How is it possible the nefarious, mendacious and crooked government of that megalomaniac oaf Johnson managed to screw up the negotiations so much that they did not even secure parity of conditions for UK residents in Europe?

    The worst negotiating team in British political history failed to secure the same rights for a Scot in Spain as for a Spaniard in Scotland… We lost freedom of movement, the EU residents in Scotland have maintained theirs….

    Let no one say the deal is reciprocal in its treatment of citizens. It is not.

    And Keir Starmer passed this absolutely atrocious deal,let no one forget that….he says it is better than No Deal but frankly, I see very little difference between the two in my own case. Legal uncertainty, lost rights, limbo land for ever mair..

    What a sell out, what a cop out, what a betrayal of 1.5 subjects of her Majesty. Still, I bet her corgies are at least house trained, not like that corrupt and corrupting base fool Johnson, who should be run out of town like that loser fascist Trump….

    1. MacNaughton says:

      I believe a campaign must be launched to force Boris Johnson to resign….his “oven ready” Brexit deal took one year to cook and is dry and burned to a crisp, an inedible piece of crap no one can swallow.

      His inept and useless handling of the Covid crisis, during which at point he paid people to go to restaurants only to lock down again a few months later, has caused the unnecessary deaths of thousands of British citizens….

      He is a fool, a compulsive liar, a crook and a walking public health disaster.

      With Trump’s departure imminent he should pack his bags and go, along with that gang of totally unpresentable villains, that creep Gove, that nasty wee bully Patel and all the other idiots in this unbearable, incompetent and totally useless government….

      Boot the Tories out for Christ sake….

  3. SleepingDog says:

    I notice that Gibraltar sneaks into the map, but not the other overseas parts of the British Empire (perhaps lack of voting rights plays a part). Yes, we should have a constitutional debate, although I agree it is perhaps a question of developmental maturity. Although if most USAmericans appear to easily grasp the constitutional limits executive power, and know what an amendment is, then I imagine it is not beyond the UK electorate. Yes, and many aspects of the British quasi-constitution go back much further than the reconstitution of the monarchy, as the unexpected reappearance of Henry VIII powers during Brexit illustrates.

  4. Anon E Mouse says:

    Your map is dishonest and does not show leave voting council areas in Northern Ireland.

    1. William Davison says:

      Yes, I noticed that too, but only because I come from N.I. : there should have been a splash of blue down the eastern side to show the seven parliamentary constituencies (not council areas), which voted leave.

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