Another odd thing about Brexit is how deeply, despite all the Little England nationalism in which it was wrapped, foreign interests were involved in marketing and promoting it. There’s the whole Cambridge Analytica story — American gadzillionaires, Russian oligarchs, Steve Bannon bustling around behind the scenes like a rather sinister stagehand… Rather like the Russians backing Trump’s campaign even as his followers were chanting MAGA MAGA, the irony is painful. Those who claim Brexit means an independent Britain couldn’t have pulled off Brexit without a heckuva lot of foreign meddling in English affairs.
But also, it must be said that what goes round comes round. For decades — many sad and shameful decades — the US and UK played exactly these kinds of games with other people’s governments; they installed a dictator here, fomented a rebellion there (sometimes abandoning it once it got started), created astroturf nationalist movements to smother homegrown anti-colonialist efforts, etc. Nation, flag, patriotism, pride — were all just bait and switch tools to keep the colonised under control and the imports flowing. It was only a matter of time before someone pointed that weapon back in the other direction. Anyone can play the Great Game; all they need is communications technology (the great leveller!), a pinch of cleverness, and a convenient shortage of conscience.
I think Umair has one huge thing dead right. Broken nations make great fire sales. Their resources get bought up by global capital at pennies on the pound. We watched it happen to Russia, we’ve been watching it in the US, there’s a slo-mo version in Canada; there’s too much capital running around loose with too little to invest in, and it’s eyeing public assets greedily. Why on earth should anything be public, goes the reasoning, when that’s simply depriving some affluent investor of the opportunity to extort some (more) profit out of it? And so I suspect that this predatory appetite for public resources may be the motive — a more practical motive than mischief for its own sake — that encouraged both the Yanks and the Russians to meddle in the Brexit process. Like arsonists with fat wallets who plan to pick up a few bargains at that fire sale, once the smoking ruins have cooled off a bit.