Hegemony in the UK means there’s no need for a “coup” after Brexit

In his recent blog http://www.progressivepulse.org/brexit/the-state-of-the-unions-between-england-scotland-and-northern-ireland my fellow PP blogger, Sean Danaher, makes his usual excellent dissection of recent polls on the subject of Brexit and the way this may impact relations between the various countries of the UK and Ireland, and specifically the potential for creating opportunities for a united Ireland and independent Scotland. Sean also poses the possiblity of a slide towards fascism and a right wing coup in the wake of Brexit.

Assuming we crash out of the EU in March next year – which seems extremely likely (the current attitude of May and her Brexit extremists seems to be akin to the charge of the Light Brigade and we all know that didn’t end well) – it will take the rest of 2019 before companies like Airbus – who now at least have had the courage to come out and say they may well leave – make firm decisions to quit the UK.

Then there’ll be a period of scaling back and gradual withdrawral which will take several years, against which we can expect the government to try to put in place all sorts of special measures to stop or slow this happening, and then alleviate the impact (in short, buying organisations and the public off). In this endevour we can expect the government to be fully supported by the Brexit supporting press, who will also of course blame everything on the EU while hyping to the heavens any ‘jam tomorrow’ scenarios they and the government can construct (i.e. short term suffering will be worth it in the end).

However, we also need to throw into the mix an election pending in 2022. I suspect that if we have economic upheaval combined with emerging social unrest – or even the obvious sniff of both – politics may take a nasty turn. Personally I doubt there’ll be a right wing coup in the form that we normally understand that term. My reason for saying that is that the degree of hegemony enjoyed by the Tory party and its associated entities (e.g. so called ‘think tanks’), supporting media and other institutions (i.e. the ‘Right’ in general) in the UK is such that a call for a ‘national government’ and the suspension of the 2022 elections will be sufficient (I accept that many people might see this as a form of coup, of course). Given what we saw in 2010 I think it highly likely the majority of the public will go along with that and they will be aided in coming to this conclusion – and then maintaining it – by the Brexit supporting/right wing media – including I have to say (sadly) the BBC.

It’s at that point – at some point mid or later in 2020 – that it’s likely the Scotish independence and UI issues may really get going. But let’s be clear, they will be stamped on – and hard. And if we already have a national government in place I wouldn’t be at all surprised if actions aren’t taken under the slogan ‘national solidarity’ or ‘unity’ or something similar, to suspend the powers of the Scotish government (Stormont is of course much easier to deal with).

We could hypothesise further into the future, of course, but stopping at a scenario that is entirely plausible for mid/late 2020 is sensible, not least because the reactions to this and subsequent developments and their interplay become so complex that they are impossible to predict (although we could spend many a happy hour building numeous scenarios, which government emergency planners will no doubt begin doing in 2019).

Overall there’s no doubt that Brexit has already redefined what the UK is – its identify and standing in the world, and its culture and social and economic life, which includes our politics, of course. There’s no doubt this is the new ‘normal’ and the normal is going to get even more extreme and polarised over the next few years. But there will be no anti Brexit or any other kind of “revolution” – just as there never was at the time of the Great Depression, or at other times in history when other countries and continents were undergoing significant change. And there will be no right wing “coup” either. There’s simply no need for it. Then, as now, this country was under a degree of hegemonic control by the “ruling classes” (call them elites if you want) that other countries can only dream of and have spent years and billions of dollars trying to replicate (witness contemporary Russia and China).

This does not mean that things – situations, relations, practices, conventions, institutions, etc – don’t change over time. Accomodations are made, compromises reached, new lines drawn in the sand, as it were. Or, as Gramsci put it, that the ‘leading group should make sacrifices’. These incremental and ongoing ‘sacrifices’ are what so many of us believe signal progress is being made (assuming you are a progressive), or that the right/neoliberalism is in retreat, and so on. But Gramsci was also clear that these ‘sacrifices’ and ‘compromises’ were never allowed to substantially or significantly alter the essential, underlying, positions of power, and control of the mechanisms which create and maintain hegemony.

With regard to Brexit and what follows make of that what you will.


Ref: Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Translated and edited by: Hoare, Q. & Nowell- Smith, G. (1971).



  1. Donald Liverpool -

    Yet another PP article including commentary on not being an EU member which does not mention the primary fiscal purpose of the EU, and the primary set of beneficiaries of the Customs Union which EU membership demands participation in. Why do you think that is?

    1. Gordon McAdam -

      Why don’t you enlighten us?

  2. Pingback: How long might the Brexit crisis endure?
  3. Samuel Johnson -

    For an example of the kind of establishment hegemony that pervades the rigged economy in the UK consider leasehold. It’s a form of property tenure abolished everywhere that inherited it from English common law (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, US etc.) but which persists in England and Wales. It is the original having cake and eating it deal, and, in the last 20 years especially, has become notoriously riven with corruption. The rentier crooks who exploit leasehold for “supernormal” returns with, in principle, little risk tend have two things in common: they are generous donors to the Conservative party (bribing it to leave their goose alone, despite their predatory and corrupt behaviour) and they make prolific use of secrecy jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands (with concealed ownership, deliberately opaque corporate structures etc.). The lives of millions are affected but this is rarely in the news. And the reasons for that speak to the same underlying problem of concentration of ownership.

    See http://www.leaseholdknowledge.com for more

  4. Sean Danaher -

    you make a credible case. There is going to be a big showdown soon. From the Irish Times today:
    Leo Varadkar said “the people of the United Kingdom decided on Brexit and it’s not my job to help prime minister May or the United Kingdom government”.


    “It’s my job to make sure that we don’t have a hard border on our island and make sure that whatever the new trading relationship is between the UK and the EU, that the negative effect of this is minimised.”


    He said EU countries “are reaffirming their commitment to insisting that there is a backstop in the withdrawal agreement”.

    “There can be no withdrawal agreement without a backstop,” he said.

    “Also EU countries are going to begin preparations for the possibility of a no deal Brexit.

    “I don’t think that is likely, nobody does, but we have to think it is a possibility. And that means making preparations in our ports and airports for that eventuality.”

    I understand that the Netherlands which is also very heavily affected by Brexit is taking an increasingly strong line.

    1. Ivan Horrocks -

      Sean, I think Andrew Rawnsley recently made the point that across the EU time has moved on and their focus is on other, more pressing things (to the EU). Consequently Brexit is increasingly seen as a sideshow and irritant. It’s no wonder therefore that our near neighbours – and thus those that will bare the brunt (administratively at least) are getting on with measures to deal with the UK crashing out.

    2. Peter May -

      I cannot see how a no deal Brexit is possible as Britain has undertaken to maintain a border free Ireland.
      No deal means we keep the existing deal but leave all the institutions – ie we crash out as Brexit in name only. Which is no Brexit at all and with much, much less control as we don’t have any part in making the rules we have to obey.

      1. Sean Danaher -


        the Tories have a long history of broken promises, possibly no more so than towards Ireland so I wouldn’t be so sure.

        Prof Chris Grey, who is probably the best blogger on Brexit has a particularly depressing article this week: http://chrisgreybrexitblog.blogspot.com/2018/06/two-years-into-brexit-disaster.html
        It starts with: “It is now two years since Britain, in a catastrophic and historically unprecedented act of national self-harm, voted to leave the EU”.
        Chris concludes

        No good outcomes are left

        It is still, even at this late hour, just about possible that we can avoid catastrophe and I fervently hope that we do. At the moment, all outcomes seem about as likely as each other, and none of them are good, they just come in varying shades of bad.

        Perhaps the most likely outcome now is years of transitional agreements and ongoing talks which will be unsatisfactory to leavers and remainers alike, and will result in a slow-burn economic decline and waning geo-political relevance.

        There could be a no deal crash out in March 2019, with unimaginable consequences – shortages of food and medicine, suspension of flights and much else – in terms of economic hardship and political convulsions. That is both possible and for a small hard core of Brexiters desirable.

        Or there could be another referendum – and today’s People’s Vote march in London shows that there is strong support for that – the result of which would be unpredictable and the consequences, either way, highly polarising.

        Or … who knows? All of this is uncharted water, and few who have observed the last couple of years would dare predict what will happen now.

        Even so, no one should imagine that there is any scenario in which we go back to being the country we were on 23 June 2016. That country is, irrevocably, gone.

  5. Andy Crow -

    A no deal Brexit is not possible. So years of fractious transition is currently the most likely outcome, but that by definition is some sort of ‘deal’.

    It’s a relationship, potentially a very bad one, but still a relationship.

    The Brexiteers bargaining chip is based on the rather quaint notion borne of the old ‘schoolboy howler’ (dubiously attributed to The Times) that says fog in the Channel leaves Europe completely cut off. !

    In reality that’s not so much a bargaining chip, as a chip on the shoulder, worn by post-imperialists who haven’t yet recognised that the UK is no longer a World Power.

    The prospect of being an offshore State of America, with no rights of representation in the legislature there, is not much of a fall back position. Neither is the other element of the prospect which is to become a pariah offshore tax haven of the European mainland.

    Europe faces the prospect of having a real Turkey on its south-eastern flank and a metaphorical turkey on the north-west.

    Rule Britannia ? Harumph.!

    1. Ivan Horrocks -

      Agree with all that, Andy, except your first sentence. I may be being pedantic here, but a series of transitional arrangments struck at the last moment (i.e. anytime after the formal deal is supposed to have been struck) is a ‘no deal’ as far as I’m concerned. To me that’s an ad hoc arrangment – or series of them – basically to save our – and more significantly May and co’s – bacon. The alternative, as we all know, will be significant disruption and impact on the citizens of the UK.

      1. Sean Danaher -


        I’m really getting quite worried now. Patience is getting thin on the EU side and May seems to be getting belligerent and really annoying the EU on security issues. It may make headlines at home for the rabid right wing press, who love this war-like rhetoric, but is counterproductive. The Irish should be the UK’s closest allies but are loosing patience regarding the Irish border. The UK have still not come up with any workable solution, or agreed the legal text of the backstop. The big worry is destabilisation in NI. Dissident republican groups think Brexit is a godsend; recruitment is way up apparently and they are almost salivating at the opportunity to destroy border infrastructure and hoping the situation will escalate. Economic considerations are a distant second and indeed some analyses say a hard Brexit will be actually good for Ireland as the increase in FDI will more than offset the export losses (currently 11% of Irish exports go to the UK).

        From the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/28/uks-cabinet-split-is-bad-for-brexit-negotiations-says-juncker

        The taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said the UK still mistakenly appeared to believe it was an equal partner in the talks. He suggested that the government was two years too late in sketching out its vision of a post-Brexit relationship with the EU.

        The Irish leader said: “We [spent] two years telling people that it can’t be cherrypicking, it can’t be cake and eat it, so it [the white paper] needs to understand we are a union. We have laws and rules and principles and they can’t be changed for any one country, even a country like Britain. Any relationship in the future between the EU and UK isn’t going to be one of absolute equals.

        “We’re 27 member states, the UK is one country, we’re 500 million people, the UK is 60 million, so that basic fact needs to be realised and understood.”

  6. Ivan Horrocks -

    I saw the Guardian story and Varadkar’s comments, Sean. Absolutely unambiguous. We’ll see what the fabled White Paper – which I assume appears this week – will say. I suspect more ‘cake and eating it’, and cloud cuckoo-land nonsense, which will mean that with only six weeks to go before a formal agreement should be reached there’s not a hope in hell of it happening.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      other news that surprised me today was the announcement the White Paper would be translated into a number of European languages and send directly to many of the EU capitals. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.

      1. Ivan Horrocks -

        You know why that is, Sean: this belief amongst May and co that they can split the EU apart by appealing to countries (i.e. those with right wing, nationalist governments such a Hungary and Poland) directly and thus cut Juncker and co out of the equation. It hasn’t worked so far and it won’t now.

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