How the super-rich bought their Brexit victory

by Denis MacShane | 24.04.2017

Denis MacShane is the former Minister of Europe and author of Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe published by IB Tauris in January 2015.

One of the undying Brexit myths is that it was a people’s revolt, a spontaneous anti-elite rebellion against a pro-European establishment. Yet we now learn that up to two-thirds of the cash  that paid for Brexit came from just five extremely wealthy anti-European fanatics.

Between them, Arron Banks, Peter Hargreaves, James Hosking, Robert Edmiston and Crispin Odey channelled £14.9 million to different pro-Brexit groups, according to analysis by the team behind the Sunday Times Rich List.

These men all made their fortunes in the new traded capitalism which grew as the City took advantage of the EU Single Market from the 1990s onwards. Used to the European Commission’s constant struggle to keep up with the rapid developments in digitally driven speculation, many in the City found the idea of being regulated along with other financial service firms anathema.

Spread-betters and online gambling firms have always been amongst the biggest donors to anti-European politics and organisations like the eurosceptic think tank Open Europe.

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    The most high-profile is Nigel Farage’s friend Aaron Banks, who gave £8.1 million to Ukip-led Brexit campaigns. Banks has achieved more than his 15 minutes of fame and, like many of the new capitalism’s super-rich, likes to throw his money around to promote his politics and get press exposure.

    The Electoral Commission is investigating the Ukip-linked Leave.EU campaign, which tipped the balance in favour of Brexit with lavish anti-EU propaganda material that flooded into people’s home with false claims of 75 million Turks about to come to Britain as Turkey was on the point of becoming an EU member state – a complete and utter lie.

    The Electoral Commission says it is looking into “potential offences under the law”. Of course the multi-billionaires who funded the Brexit campaign can hire endless QCs to argue in court against whatever the Electoral Commission decides. In the prevailing climate, judges may also expect to find themselves under intense media or political pressure over any decisions perceived to be against Brexit.

    It is important that the huge amount of money that has been poured into anti-EU campaigning in the last two decades is examined and revealed, from the dubious funding coming from hard right-wing sources in the United States to the bizarre links between UKIP and the Kremlin via Julian Assange, whose Wikileaks organisation seems to have become an arm of the Putin propaganda machine.

    Vladimir Putin, potentially the richest man of all, was also involved in supporting and partly bankrolling the Brexit campaign via his global TV and media operations, Russia Today and Sputnik.

    When you also consider the daily support during the campaign of major papers owned by Rupert Murdoch, Jonathan Harmsworth and the tax exile Barclay Brothers – not to mention the years of anti-Brussels stories beforehand – the Brexit win was a victory of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.

    At the very minimum, the myth that the Brexit result was the outcome of a disinterested, equally balanced and fair decision, resulting from fair debate free of outside influence, needs to be exposed as the lie it is.

    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    14 Responses to “How the super-rich bought their Brexit victory”

    • well, Brexit is very much the encapsulation of the upper-class dominance of british politics, even more so than the dysfunctional Werstminster.

      British democracy ? what a pathetic joke !

    • Even if the Electoral Commission finds against these super-rich fat cats can anything be done that would reverse the damage that they have done or even prevent them from further bringing UK democracy into disrepute? Aaron Banks is reported to have declared that he will not cooperate with the investigation. Is he above the law?

    • The sad thing is that money, in the form of campaign spending and the general power and influence it provides, via all forms of media, has always been and will increasingly continue to be the main driver in our politics! If you bombard an unquestioning person with enough lies and half truths to make your case, and the sources seem reasonable – ie, National newspapers, worldwide TV channels and politicians [including some from leading mainstream parties], and printed info through the door!! – then many of these people will believe virtually anything! Add to that toxic mix the almost unregulated “fake news” on the internet and it becomes very much a case of who can fund the most blatant propaganda – because that’s what campaigns such as Brexit become, pure propaganda and lies!! Mind you, this coming General Election promises to be very much the same, with the Tories already trying to link Corbyn with Terrorism, which is nonsense! So he we go for more lies, half truths, over spending scandals and abuses of democracy!

    • I did not receive any glossy anti EU literature ,I did however receive tax payer funded pro EU glossy literature, as for the lie that Turkey was about to join the EU,the EU was about to fast track their membership because of them taking in migrants. It was events such as the attempted coup and crackdown which scuttled that or have you forgotten?

      • there wasn’t, nor has ever been, any fast-tracking of Turkey’s EU membership.
        it’s another lie by Brexiteers in the form of “look over there” to avoid taking responsibility for their deception (or in the case if their ignorant fandom, to deflect the bullet of their stupidity)

        like Mark Williams said, it’s ever so easy to break one’s rationality when enough pressure is applied. and it’s a sad fact that once broken, the “victim” is oft too reluctant to acknowledge that damage has been inflicted

        • I think there is indication that some EU members were pretty keen on easing the way for Turkey to join, though I don’t think this had anything to do with refugees. Certainly, constraints on movement of Turkish workers were eased. Personally, I fear that if Turkey slides under an autocratic dictatorship with Erdogan, many people in Europe will come to regret not having been more willing to embrace a secular Turkey within the EU family.
          I agree with Martin Davies that the Remain campaign was clumsy and patronising and played into the hands of those who were spinning the line about elites talking down to people.
          However, I think the broad premise of this article is generally correct. Brexit was won by a very ugly coalition of well funded right wing money grabbing bastards, who have been steadily poisoning the populace. They don’t care about the UK, they care about money, power and access to resources.
          The poor proletariat Brexiteers are fed everything and they just spew it out again – over and over again. Have you ever heard a proletariat Brexiteer with a unique or interesting take on Brexit, or use anything other than a stock of pathetic defensive postures to explain themselves? No. It’s because all they they do is trot out the crap they are given. They have been brainwashed and because they suffer from bad conscience and have turned their own self-loathing inside out and projected it on the “other” they play the victim. They are drunk on nostalgia and ripe for exploitation, because ironically, they are the victims! They’re akin with the Spanish peasants who supported Franko. If they cling to their myths they can imagine themselves to be part of something worthwhile – even if you’re pretty low down in a hierarchy you’ve at least got a position. Saves you having to think too hard for yourself. They want the filthy capitalists to give them stinking shitty jobs in factories again, or so they say.
          Really, they don’t know what they want, so shaking their arses at people who use big words they don’t understand and shafting johnny foreigner makes them feel a bit less of a failure, for now…

          • Could you please name those countries that were keen on easing the road to membership for Turkey ? that might make for interesting reading.

            next, the EU (and EEC before it) were keen on stabilizing Turkey towards the western sphere of influence, but that doesn’t mean “membership”. there are multiple ways to have associate agreements to achieve the same objective.
            but 2 elements went against a more gradual approach :
            1) turkish nationalism that wanted nothing short of equal status to the other EU members
            2) anglo-saxon (US and UK, each for their own reasons) that wanted Turkey in the EU full-time. The US was guided by misreading of the European situation and its own narrow national interest. the UK was driven by a desire to make the EU implode in irrelevance.

            finally, I can’t help but LOL at your comment about the so-called “patronising” stance of the Remain campaign. in the press, on TV and the airwaves, you’d mostly (and by a large margin) only read, see and hear about Tories arguing for or against EU membership.
            it was “blue on blue” infighting. that’s the nasty party that both both won and lost the Brexit debate. that patronised and deceived the British public. and that is now asking for evr more poweer to deliver a botched negotiation.

            at the end of the day, it reflects poorly not just on the quality of the politicians, or of the democratic structures of the UK. but also on the civic maturity of its citizens, especially in England.

            • I can’t name specific countries keen on easing the road to membership for Turkey and don’t claim to have much knowledge on the topic. I simply referred to the relaxation of rules for Turk’s entering EU states which I thought might signal efforts to encourage Turkey to work on achieving the Copenhagen criteria. The point I was trying to make was that contemplating an EU which included Turkey was not a “bad thing” per se. Rather than get into a row with Brexiteers about whether the EU were seriously thinking about how to embrace Turkey, I meant to suggest that they might have been and that might have been okay. And yes, besides full membership, various other options may be available which I didn’t rule in or out …

              On the Remain campaign, yes I do think Osbourne and Cameron’s pronouncements and that leaflet were patronising and misfired horribly and I’m not sure where you are disagreeing with me on that…

    • It’s really no surprise. The more horrifying thing is that so many involved in government see these dynamics even more extensively than described here, and let it continue. They have passively and consciously abdicated their responsibilities in favor of the theater (and perks) of governing.
      One of the main reasons for the collapse of cultures, according to Jared Diamond’s vast study , is the breakdown of conflict resolution systems, their justice systems fail. Is that not what we are wittnessing here?

    • I’m surprised that you haven’t also mentioned the involvement of US billionaire Robert Mercer whose behavioural analytics firm Cambridge Analytica were hired by Leave EU to flood susceptible people’s social media accounts with fake news. They were also instrumental in Trump’s victory.

      See here: https://nota-uk.org/2017/02/02/meet-cambridge-analytica-the-big-data-communications-company-responsible-for-trump-brexit/

      And here: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage

    • I am an old age pensioner who doesn’t give a damn about immigration. I am passionate about our independence. The money that is wasted by the fat cats on the Brussels gravy train, it’s ludicrous, bureaucracy on top of bureaucracy, inefficiency and continual unnecessary meddling which we can’t afford, don’t need and certainly don’t want.

    • Considering the the nouveau rich and the Russian funding of UKIP et al, deluded aristocrats like the inbred Rees-Mogg, and Putin’s FSB St. Petersburg barrage of netbot and paid advertising via social media, it is surprising Leave did not win by a far, far, wider margin. This surely shows that the Mother of Parliaments is hugely sturdy at its core. We shall overcome this hurdle. We can gain strength in the knowledge that the world’s oldest democracy has fought many an earth-shattering crisis and survived.

    • I seem to remember Leave groups were far less well funded than Remain ones. Or do I have that wrong? Wasn’t public money used to advise us to Remain?

      And just look at the people trying to keep us in the EU to this day: Blair, Branson, Mandelson, Gina Millar. Keeping us in an EU where a huge amount of lobbying is done by big business in Brussels…

      The idea that Russian twitter accounts swung the vote is impossible to give proper evidence for – and I find rather ridiculous. People tend to follow accounts they agree with. A simple follower count tells you nothing about any influence on voting. I’ve seen lots of people accusing each other of being Russian bots. Frankly, it gives the impression that Remainers aren’t quite as intellectually superior as they keep telling us.

      As for the “Murdoch/right-wing papers” meme – the Times and the Sunday Mail were both pro-Remain. The BBC is the main news source for 70%ish of people in the UK – it receives funding from the EU and is notoriously pro EU.

      I’d do more research – it’s just rather tangential for my actual reasons for voting Leave. If I’m factually wrong about any of this, please do me a favour and call it a “misapprehension” rather than a “lie”. We’re all a bit tired of the attitude of die-hard Remainers on twitter, where everything’s an insult or an accusation of racism. I understand what it’s like to be passionate about politics but I seem to be able to step back & remember I’m talking to human beings 🙂