This morning the United Kingdom made history as it chose to leave the European Union. The Leave campaign has painted a picture of Britain under threat. Under threat from refugees, under threat from immigrants, and under threat of losing their “Britishness.” This historic move, which has been championed as a move to reclaim Britain’s sovereignty, has divided the nation along existing fault lines. It has divided the educated from the uneducated, the rich from the poor, and the white from the non-white. At its core, this debate has been about what it means to be British.
The British descent from an imperial power that controlled and exploited much of the world to “just another” European nation has not sat well with Britons for many years. As such the decision comes as no surprise when you consider Britain’s longs history of blaming the EU for its problems, or its tendency to refer to Europe as an entity from which it is separate, or even Britain’s history of isolationism.
British tabloids have fanned the flames of the refugee crisis by describing the “swarms” of refugees that have flooded the UK. The freedom of movement accorded to members of the EU and the EU’s acceptance of refugees has been close to the heart of this debate. By choosing to break with the EU, Britain has regained the right to close its borders to refugees. The economic effects of Brexit are likely to be devastating, despite this, Britons chose to make the gamble of giving up their economic security in order to keep immigrants out.
At its core, Brexit is three parts racism with one part of nostalgia for the Empire.
Racism has played no subtle role in the success of the Leave campaign. As evidenced by the speeches of Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, which are peppered with references to “nig-nogs”,”niggers”, and “chinkys”. Propagandists have fuelled fears of growing sexual assaults by linking it to the presence of large numbers of immigrants, and explicitly to Syrian refugees.
The overtly racist nature of the Leave campaign and it’s subsequent victory, if it can even be called a victory, is a testimony to how prevalent racism still is today.
The implications of this decision extend beyond those on refugees and immigrants, it affects us all. The decision made today will deny generations to come the freedom of movement that their forefathers have enjoyed.
The victims of this decision are in the future. The victims are in those opportunities that have been cut down, those friendships that will never exist, and the love that could have been. The extent to which this affects the world can never really be measured, but its effects will be felt by the Syrian child on whom yet another door has been closed, by the British child who will no longer have the freedom to grow up and work anywhere in the EU, and by the British public who have crippled their own economy, all in the fear of having to share their country with people who in reality are not unlike themselves.
While millions around Britain celebrate their break from the EU as the moment they won back their sovereignty, what they fail to acknowledge is that today, xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism have won too.
Originally Published on Get Lost.