Socialist Worker

Don’t let the vote to leave the European Union be written off as backward

The campaign for a “People’s Vote” on Brexit is based on liberal snobbery toward workers, says Sadie Robinson

Issue No. 2609

A pro-EU protest just days after the vote to leave the EU in June 2016

A pro-EU protest just days after the vote to leave the EU in June 2016 (Pic: sgoldswo/Flickr)

Opponents of Brexit plan to march on Saturday 23 June, two years after the vote to leave the European Union (EU). They want a “People’s Vote” on the final Brexit deal—essentially a second referendum.

Some unions have backed the march.

Many of those who oppose Brexit do so for good reasons—because they fear a rise in racism and or want to protect jobs.

It can look like progressive anti-racists back the EU while the pro-Brexit side is full of Tories and bigots. And it might seem that socialists should support any protest that says it’s against the Tories.

Yet those leading both sides are wealthy liberals and right wingers. They are driven by concerns about what’s best for business and hold a deep contempt for ordinary people.

Rich “philosopher” and for-profit university founder AC Grayling is one of the most high-profile Remainers. His rants against Brexit reek of snobby assumptions about working class people.

For Grayling, decisions on EU membership should be left to “intelligent” debate in parliament. He wrote that “every elder statesman” opposes Brexit, as if this clinches the argument.

Alastair Campbell, who lied to help Tony Blair’s government murder a million Iraqis, is another leading Remainer. Without irony he compared Brexit to “destroying a country on false pretences” on Twitter last week.

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, who backed a right wing break from Labour in the 1980s, is another. She wrote an article last week urging people to join the 23 June protest.

One comment underneath her article refers to Leave voters as “the 17m resentful, uneducated mugs”.

“It’s time to Take Back Control from these lunatics,” it continues. Another is prepared to use “any means necessary” to reverse the referendum vote.


The “People’s Vote” campaign is run by a group called Open Britain. Open Britain backs “more action to tackle illegal immigration” and more cash for border forces.

“The failure to prevent unlawful entry into our country and to remove illegal immigrants has rightly angered many people,” it says.

It adds that free movement needs “mending” and “tying” it to “offers of employment”.

While some people voted Leave for racist reasons, many others did not. The vote reflected a deep bitterness towards the establishment —and class shaped it.

The overwhelming majority of Britain’s bosses backed Remain as did the main political parties.

The only social group where a majority, 57 percent, voted Remain was the AB group of professionals, managers, lecturers and teachers, according to a detailed poll by Lord Ashcroft.

Yet nearly two thirds of C2s (skilled manual workers), Ds (other manual workers) and Es (pensioners, unemployed and benefit claimants) voted Leave.

Socialist Worker backed a Leave vote because we oppose the neoliberal, racist EU. It is a mechanism to protect one group of bosses’ interests against others.

It has enforced rulings that undermine workers’ rights and border controls that drown refugees in the sea.

The EU has not protected workers’ jobs, pay, conditions or pensions. Nor has Britain’s EU membership blocked racism.

The Leave vote reflected a feeling among ordinary people that the system has failed them. They deserve more than a “choice” between liberals who, in different ways, want to keep that system going.

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