The Brexit verdict brings out the weakness of the concept of European Union. It raises questions whether integration based on the concept of common markets and free flow of capital and goods, services and people can be transformative for all the social classes. Whether integration based on supremacy of finance capital and markets and designed at promoting their profitability at the cost welfare of the working poor sustain this integration for longer.
The exit of Britain from European Union is a reaction of people to cuts in social expenditure which has affected them drastically. The pattern of voting favoring exit reveal those social classes at the lowest of the class hierarchy consisting of semi and unskilled manual workers, casual or lower grade workers had highest preference for exit. As one moved up the class hierarchy, the preference was for remaining in European Union. Professionals and managers largely voted to remain. The choicesof working classes were determined by the affect of three decades of economic policies which tended to be pro-rich starting from Thatcherism and which emphasized on deindustrialization and privatization. From secured and well paying employment, working classes were reduced to being in jobs which were low paying employment with limited job security. This was followed by 2008 economic crises which threatened their jobs. Efforts in introducing austerity measures for post recession recovery hit them still further as the welfare measures reduced particularly the National Health Service.
The concept of European Union while it may have provided some sense of larger identity, it was largely a market integration where the beneficiaries were the classes at the top of the economic hierarchy. The social classes at the bottom were seen either as passive consumers or the servers of a system based on supremacy of finance capital. The welfare needs of social classes at the bottom such as on basic health care and education, a decent employment for their well being were seen of less of a priority.
Hence while the integration served the interests of the corporate elite very well by enabling their increased access to markets and thus their profits, but on the other hand austerity and fiscal measures has worked against working classes. The reducing employment prospects, falling wages, insecure employment and job security, reduced social welfare services such as on education and health have become patterns which has affected the masses. The neo-liberal measures, an integral feature of the European Union thus has been more beneficial to economic and corporate elite.
Though the cause of economic distress was the pro-rich economic model of European Union, the far right wing UK Independent party (UKIP) of Nigel Farage campaigned for exit based on the thesis of threat from immigrants. The downturn in Britain was attributed to immigrants and thus called for stringent control against entry of immigrants was given. It tried to argue that the idea of European Union was making it easier for immigrants to enter Britain.
The Brexit verdict has shown that the idea of common markets being a solution is a failure.
Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He had done his M.Philfrom Centre for Political Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University. The opinions expressed are individual.