The New Kleptocracy: How Farage and the useful idiots lost

Paul Cotterill
4 min readDec 30, 2020


Richard Murphy is perplexed.

Richard goes on to set out all the things that the Deal that are are lost to us, or not gained, through the deal, and wonders why anyone is backing it, when nobody gains anything materially.

But assessing the costs and benefits of the Deal in terms of what the country as a whole gains or loses misses who does gain from the Deal.

The winners of the Brexit process are not, in the end, those loyal to the Faragian ideal of Little England sovereignty at all costs.

The winners are those committed to and benefiting from the elite project of empire renewal. As I wrote in more detail before the deal was announced:

Under this project, the elite is quite prepared and politically thick-skinned enough — think Thatcherism without the traces of humanity — to let the people of Britain suffer a extended period of general economic decline, so that the freedom from EU rules (especially State Aid) that this suffering brings allows the elite to pursue its project of the renewal of empire; this time around, rather than manufactured goods based on primary materials produced in the empire beyond Britain’s shore by exploited workers, think hi-tech goods and services produced via a mix of exploitation within these shores and a brain-drain immigration system.

That is, the freedom for the elite to spend whatever money it wants on massive projects, without external constraint on how much is pilfered from the Treasury for the purpose, or on who the contracts are handed to, is the ONLY important thing.

That is why, for the elite project, chapter 3 (Subsidy control) of Title XI in the Deal is so important, and such a triumph for the winners; the careful wording allows the EU side to sell to its member states the idea that the level playing field on State Aid is being maintained, while the detail allows the UK side simply to get on with cheating, knowing that it doesn’t have to get subsidies approved ex ante any more, and that the transparency conditions (page 190) can easily be disregarded over time in just the same way, under Gove’s management, Freedom of Information requirements are now routinely disregarded.

This level of control over the public purse, for which the pandemic procurement corruption will come to be seen as just the pilot phase, is the Cummings dream come true; a new kleptocracy has been legally instituted, with the tacit support of the EU, which presumably thinks that the UK’s original Operation Moonshot [1] is largely fantasy, and not an actual competitive threat.

Nothing else matters to Project Empire Renewal, least of all the “control of our borders” mantra on which Brexit was originally sold, courtesy of Farage and Cummings’ other useful idiots. That is why, via a convoluted set of words, Title II (Services and Investment), the door is pushed open for work visas, by first stating the generality of the UK’s right to its own immigration policy, but then setting the proviso that this must not interfere with a broader mutual right:

The sole fact of requiring a visa for natural persons of certain countries and not for those of others shall not be regarded as nullifying or impairing benefits under this Title. (p.75)

This will not of course be noticed by Farage and the useful idiots, until a work visa application form starts to contain a simply tick box relating to the Title II agreement.

Of course, it’s good that Farage loses on this, as it opens the way for renewed freedom of movement for both EU and UK citizens, albeit via a more cumbersome administrative process.

But none of the relief that there is a deal, which in a few respects is softer than it might have been if the negotiation objective had really been about a mythical sovereignty, should obscure the big issue.

This is that Farage lost, and Cummings won.

And for that reason, Labour should be voting against the Deal today. As the New Kleptocracy gets going, Labour will come to rue its support for the New Kleptocracy.


1/ Operation Moonshot is not actually an Autumn Cummings creation around the pandemic. The term first appears in the March 2020 budget (para 1.61), with a promise of £100bn by 2024/5 on ambitious hi-tech projects. Sadly, nobody on the opposition benches noticed that Cummings was taking the piss in this way.

The Budget sets out ambitious plans to increase public R&D investment to £22 billion per year by 2024–25. This landmark investment is the largest and fastest ever expansion of support for basic research and innovation, taking direct support for R&D to 0.8% of GDP and placing the UK among the top quarter of OECD nations — ahead of the USA, Japan, France and China.This unprecedented increase in investment will support a range of objectives, including:

supporting world-leading research in all regions and nations of the UK, including by cutting bureaucracy, experimenting with new funding models, and establishing a new funding agency to focus on high-risk, high-reward research

meeting the great challenges facing society, including climate change and an ageing population, and providing funding to pursue ‘moonshot’ scientific missions

investing in the government’s own strategic science capability and improving public services

backing businesses to invest and innovate so that they can compete in the global technology-driven economy



Paul Cotterill

Secretary General, Habermasian Labour (UK). Indefatigably focused on the promotion of ethical discourse in the public sphere, except when there's cricket.