We know each other via the Remain, and now Rejoin campaigns. I joined my local group, Oxford for Europe in 2016 (after the vote) and this led to work with Britain for Europe, Grassroots for Europe and the European Movement, and the web of alliances that all these have in turn connected through, including of course yourselves.
I’d also like to declare a political and intellectual interest. I’ve been an independent scholar over much of my life with a special interest in applications of the work of Foucault, on which I have been a moderately well-known contributor, and this brought me into political contacts in European and other countries, some of which remain active. So I’ve tried to bring whatever resources I can to the pro-European campaign in terms of helping to understand the thing, the enterprises and the forces we are dealing with. And I have been accustomed to looking beyond UK sources and contributors (and certainly way beyond Foucault) for understanding who we are and what is happening. I wrote a research paper in 2018 called “Brexiters – who, what and why” pulling together what I thought I had learned, which was shared via social media and academia.edu.
I don’t claim there is anything unique about my analysis of Brexit, except that the sources I am most indebted (who are mainly not UK based) are not always as much appreciated or used by people in our campaigns, or indeed by mainstream commentary, as I think they might usefully be. Brexit is by definition in some respects a one-off event with some unique national and historical flavours, but it is also an instance of something, or things, we know to be more wider happening in multiple other settings. So there can, or should be, a global community of analysts and investigations working together and helping each other to grasp and combat adverse developments in both separate and shared settings, and this needs to involve collaborations and networks at a level where analysis and pratice are closely interwoven.
Another Europe is Possible has always interested and intrigued me because it is Eurocritical rather than Eurosceptical in a Lexiter sense, and because it represents pro-Rejoin forces in UK while allying with pro-change forces in EU member states. The pro-EU movement organisations I work with have a wider, varied and less specific – not necessarily less developed – political orientation. EM and GfE are cross-party and non-party and (unlike AEIP I think) do not presuppose a left orientation. They are characterised among other things as a movement involving people politicised or activated by Brexit and in response and resistance to Brexit, the will to reverse Brexit and the will to resist the forces and agenda which drive Brexit and work through it. Anti-Brexit is a kind of non-ideological, event-specific resistance movement, As such it is ‘single-issue’. But the single issue is a big issue, and one which is bigger than Brexit alone. Anti-Brexit assembled a bigger public protest than any other cause since Iraq (and now Palestine); whether this capacity can be repeated and continued is an open question. Anti-Brexit is, I think, in internal debate about whether to identify itself as single-issue, to acknowledge specific alliances, or engage in specific broad emergency responses, such as support for Ukraine. There is also a question here of reciprocated and non-reciprocated solidarity, or of mutual recognition vs non-recognition of common struggles.
During the Trump visit there was a Venn diagram on the streets of broad Left, antiracist, antifascist forces, and broad pro-European participants, organisers and messages, but clearly with some different emphases on the specificity or commonality of these causes. Some of the Left were or still are Lexiter or varyingly Euro-agnostic. Similarly with XR – even despite the massive evidence of Brexit’s links to climate denialism. In the case of the current wave of protest in defence of the right to protest – against the Police Bill and the Public Order Bill among others – anti-Brexit is present and its voice signals the link between Brexit and an assault on rights, with varying degrees of effectiveness, impact and resonance.
Fossil fuel, extractive finance, global kleptocracy and dark money, financial money-laundering industries, the private capture of government and of public goods and assets (including air and water), extreme deregulation, attrition of the rule of law, a range of strategies to shut down democratic challenges to the power of big money, including militarised policing and counter-insurgency, autocratic regression, populist culture war, authoritarian populism and authoritarian libertarianism, the wars on asylum seeker, migrants and war’s victims, ideologists, marketers and facilitators of all of the aforementioned: all these fingerprints are prominent in the unfolding background and foreground of Brexit, but equally to varying degrees in many, even most contemporary European and global venues. The forces that delivered and exploit Brexit in the UK are active across Europe and the world. Brexit was a (provisionally) failed attempt to start a domino sequence of secession, fragmentation and profitable chaos in the international system. Similar sets of actors pursue versions of these agendas in varying forms according to local tactical circumstance and opportunity. Over at least two generations a series of diverse movements and struggles have diagnosed and resisted these varying and successive offensives, with varying and generally limited success.
The situation of the UK anti-Brexit movement is paradoxical and tantalising. Anti-
Brexiters are Europe-friendly but have no exact natural counterpart in Europe because Brexit is so far a one-off event, though the narrative that the UK debacle has had a cautionary discouraging effect on Europe-sceptic forces elsewhere in Europe is maybe now becoming less convincing. Ideally, progressives across Europe may devote some study Brexit and UK attempts to resist it as relevant experience for those preparing against similar threats elsewhere. Conversely, the anti-Brexit movement needs to seek out and befriend the movements across Europe combatting the forces and agendas that drove Brexit – and sometimes offer us valuable new research angles on Brexit. Brexit is not just about Brexit; an anti-Brexit movement is single-issue in one dimension but multi-issue in others.
These are some areas where I think a dialogue between grassroots anti-Brexit and the multiple struggles against old and new aggressive forms of Alt-Right, Alt Finance, Alt Capital – where Another Europe has been a dynamic and innovatively minded player, could hopefully proliferate and flourish.
8th December 2023