Volume 12, Number 3 (2019)

‘Fuck business’: the Conservative Party, capital, and Britain’s EU membership

Jamie Gough

The relation between Brexit and capital presents a conundrum. All varieties of Brexit, from ‘soft’ to ‘hard’ to no-deal, will damage profitable production of services and goods by workers in Britain. Over the last three years the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors and the British Chambers of Commerce have issued increasingly strident and desperate warnings to the Conservative government. Meanwhile, capital has voted with its feet: manufacturing plants have shut down, investments in new lines have been made outside Britain (particularly in cars), and financial service firms have moved operations to other EU countries. Why then is the Conservative Party, the major party of British capital for the last hundred years, pursuing Brexit?  The apparent indifference to capital accumulation in Britain was encapsulated in Boris Johnson’s reply to a question about business’s prospects post-Brexit: ‘fuck business’. To explain this paradox, I consider (i) The history of the Conservative Party’s relationship to the EU; (ii) The historical structure of British capital: the split between finance and manufacturing industry; and (iii) The reasons that capital operating in Britain may wish to leave the EU, or at least see advantages in that path.