Why did some of the richest, most powerful people in the UK support Brexit?

It's true that the vote for Brexit was carried by working-class people in some of the poorest and most excluded regions in the UK; but the actual referendum question was put before the British public thanks to a small faction of some of the richest, most powerful people in the country — people who rely on the finance sector (which overwhelmingly supported Remain) for their privilege. Why?

The answers are complicated, of course. Some of those rich and powerful people are bigots who'd surrender a bit of finance primacy for the chance to ethnically cleanse the country. Some underestimated the cost to the nation of Brexit. Some didn't expect to win, and were playing a game of thrones for control of the Conservative party.

Then there's austerity and deregulation: a chance to eliminate those pesky EU regs that protect workers, human rights, the climate, and public health and safety. Andrea Leadsom, the "true beLeaver" who's hoping to rule the nation, is on record as dreaming of "a situation where you had no regulation whatsoever, no minimum wage, no maternity or paternity rights, no unfair dismissal rights, and no pension rights – absolutely no regulation whatsoever for the very smallest companies that are trying to get off the ground."

(Leadsom is apparently planning to make Sharia law panic a cornerstone of her campaign.)

It's true that much of the finance industry is dismayed by the Leave vote and are prepared to leave themselves (France's opening bid is a huge tax-holiday for bankers who decamp to Paris and establish a new financial centre there).

But the UK finance sector has an ace in the hole after Brexit. Leaving the EU means that the UK can ignore the EU's move to force disclosure of the owners of trusts, which will seriously curtail the global money-laundering machine that allows offshore criminals to clean their fortunes, and is the principal vehicle for preserving intergenerational wealth and privilege for the richest people in the world.

The UK had successfully delayed the regulation on trusts, but with Brexit in the cards, the EU is rushing to implement the rules. If the UK is the only "stable democracy" where secret trusts can thrive, the world's dirty trillions will continue to flow through London — even if UK-controlled tax-havens like the British Virgin Islands are eventually reined in.

Brexit gave the people that the UK left behind a chance to give the great and the good a black eye, but not everyone in the top tiers will suffer as a result.

By contrast, the Leave side of the ruling class is a motley group without a strong sectoral character, who partly hope to trade more intensely outside the European Union. More than that, however, Leave supporters hope to advance a more thorough neoliberal agenda by ridding Britain of EU regulations and further reducing labor rights and social protection.

These noble aspirations certainly do not leave the rest of the British ruling class unmoved, and the relatively modest size of the Leave group should not obscure its considerable social weight and significance.

Above all, the Leave side reflects the long-standing suspicion of the entire British ruling class toward the economic and political ambitions of the EU project. Leave supporters have acted as the inner voice of the British establishment, reminding even Remain supporters that something is not quite right with the European Union, even if no-one is entirely clear what that is.

Why They Left
[Costas Lapavitsas/Jacobin]

After Brexit, EU proposes tougher tax rules on trusts
[Francesco Guarascio/Reuters]

France lures London bankers with extra expat tax break
[Leigh Thomas and Maya Nikolaeva/Reuters]

(via Naked Capitalism)