THE EU referendum transfixed England just as much as the one on Scottish independence had mesmerised Scotland. And almost two years later the sheer shambolic and suicidal nature of the Conservative Government’s Brexit strategy has overwhelmed everything else. We now live in Brexitland, a strange, parallel universe where nothing is as it seems; curious alliances form and former sworn enemies find common ground.

Insofar as you can ever feel sorry for the millionaire boss of the Conservative Party I’ve occasionally spared a rueful thought for Theresa May. She would not be human if she didn’t wonder if she may ever be permitted to spend a day as the Prime Minister of Britain without having to deal with Brexit and the sack of serpents who comprise her chief Brexiteers. Does she ever look at Jacob Rees-Mogg and think that in his dress morning suit he resembles a funeral undertaker more than an indolent regency fop?

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Monday brought her more misery as Jeremy Corbyn’s switcheroo on the European customs union boxed her in even further. Yet, it was probably nothing compared with what Corbyn himself was experiencing. How many dark nights of the soul did the Labour leader endure before he made his move on Monday? This man’s appeal has been built on his reputation as a conviction politician in a landscape that has always rewarded unprincipled shiftiness and those who are prepared to sacrifice honour for career gain. There were many reasons why Corbyn had always been impervious to the dubious charms of the EU. But these had been forgotten as it became clear that Labour could prey greedily on Theresa May’s Brexit travails.

The ongoing Brexit debate has made hypocrites of us all and now Corbyn, having held out for so long, has fallen too. In the UK left’s desire to remove a Conservative administration thirled to the base values of Ukip, Brexit is a golden opportunity. And so too with those of us who support an independent Scotland. Yet it’s worthwhile to consider why many of us who voted Yes in the EU referendum did so while holding our noses. Those of us who shared Corbyn’s hostility to what the EU had become felt able to submerge this as it became clear that Brexit was simply a power grab by the Tory right. The sickening anti-immigrant imagery deployed by Ukip made it easier.

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Yet how many of us on the left, in the chaos of the Brexit pantomime, have forgotten what it was about the EU that once caused us to disparage it. The desperate desire not to share any space occupied by the Rees-Mogg faction has perhaps made some of us forget just what it was about the EU we have always hated. It’s not that long ago that we witnessed the EU’s intimidation of Greece. The bailout terms the EU tried to impose on Greece – primary budget surpluses of 4.5 per cent in perpetuity would have made an Easterhouse loan-shark blush and consigned the Greek working class to a future without hope. Yet this was coming from a global cartel which laughably preached about the virtues of shared responsibility. Greece, as with other Mediterranean economies, had only been as good as the returns it provided for the crippling bank loans of western banks, principally German ones. This exercise in corporate gangsterism encapsulates why Big Finance loves the EU.

How could they not love an institution described thus in 2007 by the former European Commission president José Manuel Barroso: “I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire.”

What he envisioned was a global superstate, freed from piffling concerns about having to be elected every few years and providing an endless trough for multi-nationals where few questions would ever be asked. Many of us like to comfort ourselves with all that human rights legislation and workplace laws but none of it was ever accompanied by any mechanisms by which big businesses could be forced legally to deal with trade unions.

We are prepared to go to the barricades for the principle of free movement while being told that to accept this is also to accept the free movement of big money, no matter how tainted by corruption or blood. Have you ever wondered why London has become the money-laundering capital of the world? An enlightened and progressive state would allow free movement of people and confer the means to ask questions about the provenance and purpose of Big Money; not so the EU Superstate.

The working classes across Europe fought fascism and corporate greed and emerged with votes, better homes and better jobs free from the spectre of wars waged by the elites. It took centuries to make these gains and they were all achieved without the EU. Now we are sold the lie that all of this can only be protected by a self-governing and unaccountable elite who demand tens of billions of pounds in membership fees. Defaulters can swim with the fish (see Greece).

Nor is it the US acting alone who have been pressing for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It fits our lazy narrative of blaming US redneck foreign policy for a system designed to allow mutual access to all the markets without hindrances like, you know, trade unions, living wages, workplace conditions and reasonable working weeks. The EU has been pushing this too. If there was genuine financial autonomy within the EU then the US would at least be forced to deal with individual states on a case-by-case basis.

If some of us were being honest with ourselves we would admit that fear of what a hard-right administration would do outwith the EU was the principal factor in voting to remain. Life outside the EU under an authentic socialist government would be very different. And let’s not pretend that the EU would be falling over itself to embrace Scotland. The aforementioned Senor Barroso said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to join the EU. He wasn’t speaking for himself.

My National colleague Cat Boyd was roundly criticised for not having voted in the EU referendum. Yet it was really the only honest option for an authentic socialist. If Brexit is here to stay then let us consider more carefully how it could be made to work for the many and how it might be an opportunity to loosen the hold of the multi-nationals. The loyalty of these entities is reserved only for those institutions and countries who permit them to make as much money for the least possible outlay in cash and human resources. And the EU has been a Klondyke for them.