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UK politics

Brexit has moved Britain to the left

Nuthawut Somsuk/Getty Images

Instead of the right-wing revolution Brexiteers dreamt of, says Matthew Parris in The Times, Britain’s divorce from the EU seems to be serving the left. Suddenly we’re bailing out the steel industry and renationalising the railways. “Tax rises are no longer anathema.” Jeremy Corbyn, always a “closet Brexiteer”, was right about the possibilities Brexit opened up for the left. Back in 1983, Michael Foot’s election manifesto pledged to get Britain out of Europe, and the “socialist logic against membership” has only strengthened since. The EU, after all, restrains state subsidies and, in Marxist terms, cuts the bargaining power of workers by letting capitalists ship in cheap labour from the Continent.

The right’s post-Brexit dream could hardly have been more different. Boris Johnson foresaw the UK “exploding” out of EU red tape, “breaking our shackles” like “the Incredible Hulk”. Freed from anti-American Europe, we would deepen our special transatlantic relationship and join buccaneering Uncle Sam. In the event, “ignored by Washington” and adrift from Europe, the UK now cuts a “rather lonely and confused figure”. None of those spanking new trade deals are in the offing – the ones we have signed largely replicate those we had before. The country is moving sharply to the left, while the post-Brexit, small-state dream of the right has evaporated, and with it the Tory case for Brexit.