I am still angry. After over 2 years of politics surrounding Brexit, nothing good at all has happened. Our country is fractured, major issues with domestic policy haven’t been dealt with, and our government is a puppet of the far-right. It is about time that we come to terms with the fact that Brexit just isn’t worth it.
From the start of this process, Brexit has been framed as being a middle finger to the establishment because government was not working for the working class. However, many of the frustrations that regular people care about aren’t actually caused by EU policies. Issues like income inequality, housing, education, healthcare, immigration, transport, poverty, homelessness, etc. were all dependent on the policy of the Tories’ deep austerity, i.e British domestic policy. I believe that people were genuinely fed up of 6 years of cuts and needed an outlet, hence why we saw such a close result in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Wealth is not evenly spread across the country, and as a result, creates a sentiment where people feel left behind by the growth of London and the economy. With London alone accounting for 24.8% of the UK’s GDP (as of 2015) the and the OECD saying that “The highest levels of income inequality in Europe are reached in the United Kingdom and the Baltic States.”, we need to open the discussion surrounding income inequality in and implement policies to combat this, rather than blaming the EU for all our issues. This severe inequality in the UK, I believe, set the pretext as to why people were willing to test the boundaries of British politics and see if such a radical idea like Brexit could come into fruition, all in an effort to make their voices heard.
However, what makes me genuinely upset is aimlessness in which this electoral potential was aimed at. Instead of a grassroots movement where we could hold crony capitalists accountable and demand reform that works for all people, via party and general elections, the public anger was capitalised by the far-right of this country for their own extreme political agenda, then manipulated by the Tories (the source of deep austerity over the previous 6 years) for political points. “Blame the EU” we were told. Many were convinced that the EU was the source of all our domestic struggles and that being British and European weren’t compatible, all in an effort to “take back control” and return the ‘glory days’ of the empire. This is political talk for supremacy like the times of British colonialism where Britain used the tactic of divide and rule to assert its Anglo-Saxon dominance on the world and perpetuate a narrative of ‘us against them’. The thing is, history is cyclical. We have heard these racist assertions 50 years ago with the migrants of Uganda, India, Pakistan, and the Caribbean. Has our country been invaded? Has our country lost its British identity? Has our country become a wasteland? I don’t think so. In fact, I argue that British multiculturalism has actually developed our country to become the global hub and cultural exporter that it is today. So why should we treat today’s fearmongering of the “immigration crisis” any different to the past? Why does it deserve any validity?
2 years down the rabbit hole of Brexit, I think it is important to realise that we are at a stage were the far-right are now moderates and extreme political talk is normalised. Whenever I hear talk about “taking back control”, it may be framed as a reasonable argument for controlling immigration, but as a British person of colour from an immigrant family, I can’t help but see the blatant underlying racism and desire for British supremacy. It’s the 21st century and the political currency is diplomacy and soft power, not annexation of land the oppression of people. Our government seems to have lost any form of reasonable diplomatic skill and is, instead, on a delusional pursuit towards British “independence” and an assertion on global trade – almost like colonial times. Those who believe that Britain will realistically remain a top 5 economy are delusional. The reality is that although the sun never used to set on the British empire, today the United Kingdom is a small island off the coast of Europe with moderate population of 65 million people and a love of tea. PwC’s report on the long view of global economies predicts that UK’s economy will be overtaken by Mexico, Russia, Indonesia and India. That is just a matter of fact that we have to deal with. So, this notion that Britain can ‘become independent again’ and assert its dominance just like we used to 200 years ago is just farcical.
From an economic perspective, Brexit again doesn’t really solve our domestic issues. It is just a ploy to loosen regulations (which I must mention, keep us safe!) for selfish economic gain. Brexit in this perspective is a compromise of our safety for few more pounds. A recent example of how this could impact us is seen by the devastating disaster of Grenfell, Tower where 72 innocent lives where taken because of a lack of regulation surrounding fire safety in cladding, which essentially allowed flammable cladding to be placed on Grenfell tower. After Brexit, imagine what deregulation could do to public safety, and the safety of goods we use. Cheaper materials for higher profit margins, for example, would mean that consumer and environmental standards suffer as a result. Of course, there should be balance in regulations, as with everything, but as a whole, EU regulations surrounding goods and services have benefitted our safety and experiences at the expense of large corporations who only care about their shareholders and their stock market price. Brexiteers who claim that controlling our own regulations would be better for striking trade deals and boosting the economy are often the same Tories that are able to influence policy to their own economic advantage. A post-Brexit Britain would have to become low-regulation, low-tax country to attract investment and strike trade deals. The notion that not paying into EU will save us money that can be invested in public services is nonsense. As a result of Brexit, cuts in tax-funded services, like NHS and education, would affect the poorest the most, whereas the wealthiest echelons of society stand to gain the most and can afford to switch to private healthcare and education.
It is for this colonialist and economic selfishness that I say that Brexit is a political project for the far-right British elite, framed as a stand against the establishment which they are very much a part of. Look at us now, Theresa May – the embodiment of British elitism – is the prime minister, and her domestic policies are very much similar to the Cameron establishment that was demonised during the 2016 referendum. The truth is that for real change to happen in this country, we need a shake-up in traditional British government and to elect people that genuinely care about the betterment of the whole of the United Kingdom and all its different and beautiful people.
But for now, we are looking at a bleak, not too distant future where a disastrous no-deal Brexit is likely, causing the far-right to be bolstered, hate crimes to increase, and civil unrest to take place across the country. Brexit was sold to us on lies, fearmongering, and a predated colonialist ideology. The vote was won on a close majority of 1.9% - possibly swayed by the overspending by the Vote Leave campaign. London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are being pulled from the EU out of their own will. People voted for change, but no one voted for this.
That is why I am in favour of a second referendum to reset the deadlocked politics that we are suffering. The EU is not perfect, there is a reasonable argument for Brexit. However, we are geographically not going anywhere and the EU member states are our neighbours, therefore the best way to trade and reform the structure of our relationships is within the European Union. We need to have honest and frank debate about Brexit and about immigration – because it is a real concern for some people and should not be wholly dismissed as racist. But no, a second referendum is not “going against the will of the people”; it is the democratic choice make. People can change their minds, and democracy should allow it, especially now that we know what Brexit actually means. I am a part of a generation that currently stands to lose everything for choice that I didn’t make because of an elderly nostalgia for the British Empire. Two years on from the referendum, the 18, 19 and 20 years olds of today deserve a chance to voice their opinion, not for sake of partisan politics but for the sake of democracy itself. The Tories are currently pursuing an agenda of electoral repression by increasing restrictions for voting, and redrawing and reducing constituencies – which disproportionally affects young people, ethnic minority voters, lower income voters, and reduces the seats of opposition parties – all in an effort to bolster the conservative majority and retain their grasp on power. We should not stand for this. When far-right politics is dominating the political spectrum and Theresa May’s Government wants to restrict our say in British politics, we don’t have the luxury to be passive about politics.