A WHILE back, I was undercover at a Scotland in Union dinner and found myself sat next to the aristocratic wife of a prominent Brexiteer. I won’t name her, because that would be rude. But you’ve heard of him.

Amidst turgid speeches about why we should all love the Union because the Devon coast is particularly pretty (I nearly blew my cover by blurting out that Norway’s fjords are too, but that doesn’t inspire in me a desire to govern them), she was by far the most interesting person there.

And the most fascinating thing she said all night was that, as she saw it, Brexit is an alliance between the upper class and the working class against the middle class.

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Now, the data shows that, beyond her own experience, she’s mostly wrong. The idea of Brexit as a working class revolt is largely a tabloid invention. The bulk of the Leave vote was the English middle class.

The interesting point was that her posh and hyper-rich pals had backed Brexit.

And if we want to understand events in Parliament this week, then this is an important group to get our heads around.

Traditionally, the Anglo-British ruling class has been good at one thing: solidarity.

It’s why posh parents send their children to freeze on the rugby pitches of famous public schools and it’s why the Tory party rarely splits.

It’s a lesson learnt on the playing fields of Eton and in the plundering of India: if we work together, we’ll all do well.

One of the remarkable features of Brexit is that this rule has been broken. The Conservative party has wrenched itself asunder over an issue which most people in the UK didn’t much care about before 2016.

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And to understand why, we need to look at the broader social group that the Conservatives traditionally represent – the ruling class – and how it has fragmented, or, perhaps, been usurped.

Part of the reason they’ve split is, of course, about identity and ideology. But a lot of it, I suspect, is about material interest.

Let’s look at the two factions.

The first group is those who favour a close alignment with the EU.

The National:

This includes most of the big employers you’ve heard of, and their representatives in the CBI. They want to maintain tariff free trading with the EU, and don’t mind giving up the right to endanger their workers and poison our rivers in exchange.

This group is well understood, and when people say that “the establishment” is against Brexit, this is roughly who they mean.

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This group is still mostly in charge of the UK, but it’s in decline, and has been for a long time as its spent its way through the plundered assets of empire.

In Parliament, it’s represented by Theresa May, and the “moderate” majority of Tory MPs.

The other side – the part of the ruling class that supports Brexit and a hard one at that – are less often talked about, and in many ways less public.

But they are important to understand, too.

This group is desperate to pull Britain away from the European regulated space, and drag it into the deregulated American-sphere, where the winner takes it all, and they’ve already decided who the winner will be. And no, it’s not you.

First, there’s a large chunk of the media – papers like the Telegraph and the Sun, owned by multi-millionaires who live, respectively, in the Channel Islands and the US, and who have been the biggest institutions driving Brexit.

There’s the people who funnelled dark money into the Leave campaigns – the cash openDemocracy revealed, which went through former Scottish Tory golden boy Richard Cook to the DUP, and the cash which came through Arron Banks, via Gibraltar, and which we’ve spent much of the last two years tracing.

Then there’s the tangle of dark money funded think tanks – groups like the IEA and the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who have been toiling away for unknown clients, promoting a hard Brexit for more than a year now.

As my openDemocracy colleagues have revealed, they have unprecedented access to government at the moment.

This network works closely with America’s corporate funded neo-con world, including groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who spend their time fighting against action on climate change or restrictions on gun sales, and are closely connected to both Trump’s White House, and British Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

Last year, for example, IEA director general Mark Littlewood toured the US, fundraising from wealthy donors and promising to “shred” EU regulations, according to a Greenpeace undercover investigation.

Littlewood’s colleague, Shanker Singham, was essentially the author of the famous “Malthouse compromise”.

One of the main groups Littlewood visited was agribusiness firms, keen to shape UK farming regulations after CAP.

Then there’s the military and the mercenaries. Brexit group Veterans for Britain had on its advisory board a string of powerful figures, including the former head of British Armed Forces, Field Marshal Lord Guthrie (who’s from just outside Dundee).

These people are connected to a string of private intelligence companies – Guthrie now works for the private intelligence agency Arcanum, whose chair has described Brexit as an “opportunity for American business”, while privatised military propaganda companies like Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ played contentious roles in the Brexit campaign.

These firms shouldn’t be underestimated – the UK is now the world centre for mercenary companies, not something it can say about many business sectors.

Though there is another notable one: money laundering.

And in two years investigating the Brexit elite, it’s very clear that most of the money launderers are desperate to leave the European regulated space.

And finally, there’s the White House. When Donald Trump came to Britain in July, he said that Theresa May’s deal with the EU would kill the trade deal he wants to have with the UK.

Most journalists treated this as a gaffe, as though politics is reality TV. In reality, it was a perfectly rational statement of intent for a disaster capitalist global oligarch.

Lump these people together – the media moguls and the money launderers, the disaster capitalists and the people who employ the services of mercenary firms; and the American businesses who see a chance to pull Britain out of the grip of European regulation, and you find the second faction in the ruling class: less domestic industry, more offshore finance.

We can call them the oligarchs. And the section of the British aristocracy which has managed to make the leap into the 21st century – whose fortunes have expanded through hedge funds – is happy to welcome them into their West London clubs, and cook up plans for a new global Britain.

In parliamentary politics, this cluster of interests is represented by the European Research Group – the right of the parliamentary Conservative party founded in the early Nineties to turn the UK into an “offshore, low tax haven”, and who have shifted their allegiance away from Britain’s traditional industrial capitalists. As Boris Johnson explained last year: “Fuck business.”

These hard Brexiters seem to see two ways to get what they want: through May’s transition deal (but without the backstop) then Liam Fox’s trade deals, or through no-deal.

So far, they’ve been tough in their negotiations as they try to pull Britain as far offshore as they can. And if May does eventually win a ‘meaningful vote’ on her temporary arrangements, it’ll likely be because she gave them something major. And permanent.

Adam Ramsay is co-editor of openDemocracy UK