Why Britain just does not feel like home anymore for many British and Europeans since the Brexit referendum. Hint: it has to do with Britain’s imperialism. Daniel Reast explains.
Yesterday morning I watched the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC Two. It’s rare I commit myself to any news material from the BBC anymore, especially political programmes. However, I watched as British and EU citizen Sabine Voigt described her reasons for her reluctant move to Germany, her country of birth. Sabine is moving with her husband, they both have jobs, friends, and a well-established life in the UK. But after Brexit, Sabine stated she felt the country had changed and she was not welcome anymore.
This case is one of thousands of situations, where EU and non-EU citizens have decided to leave Britain as they feel unwelcome. I foolishly perused the Twitter post where this story was shared. You usually take Twitter with a pinch of salt, but in this case, I felt the most emotional about Brexit I have ever felt.
Comments such as “Bye bye” and “Don’t send a postcard” littered the post with fair reprisals from People’s Vote supporters or defenders of Sabine. The deeply personal but implicit attacks on this one person’s situation was just more evidence of the xenophobic society that the UK has become.
This particular case comes as the hate crime statistics for 2017-2018 were released. The number of reported hate crimes has more than doubled in five years, and over the past year an increase of 17% to just over 94,000. The Home Office response was derisory believing the rise in part due to improved methods of recording hate crimes. The home secretary Sajid Javid committed himself to “stamping out this sickening behaviour.”
What’s worse is the evidence that racial or religious hate crime spiked directly after the Brexit referendum result and rose rapidly in the middle of 2017. This was explained as a responder to the five terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, with over 6,000 offences reported in the summer of last year.
Many politicians of Labour have responded, including Diane Abbott and David Lammy. The most revealing statistic is the spike in Islamophobic hate crime after Boris Johnson’s ‘letterbox’ insult. At the time, the insult was largely condemned. However, notable politicians of the Right were quick to come to Johnson’s defence, in particularly using freedom of speech and expression as firm reasoning.
There are many causes of racial and xenophobic hate crimes that pervade modern society. Though, in Britain’s case there has always been one strong undercurrent that has existed to justify crimes on minorities. There’s no doubt that Britain has a long history of expansion and domination, which in reality is not too distant from our pasts. The rabid imperialism of Britain has recently seen a huge boom in academic research, and postcolonial revisionism is a firm historical method. Nevertheless, the popular and grounded symbols of British history and politics have always existed to remain a strong influence on some.
Make no mistake though, the Brexit result will be analysed and under scrutiny for a long time, with many offering reasons for the culture of Brexit. It’s not hard to realise however that Brexit was, and will always be, about immigration. For too long, a sense of anti-immigrant politics has pervaded British culture. Labour has responded to this very obvious situation with reference to a ‘hostile environment’. It must be said that a clear flashpoint for this charged anxiety over immigration was the 2008 financial crisis, where recession caused social tensions and responses.
Brexit is no more than anti-foreigner prejudice legitimised into a political policy.
The Euroscepticism of politicians remained fairly docile in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Even John Major, who is now one of the most passionate ‘Remainers’ fiercely battled with anti-EU Conservatives in his time as prime minister. It is also a truth that economics and social policy were indeed a valid reason for Eurosceptics to vote for Brexit. However, in my mind, this is just a farcical distraction from the real heat of the debate. Since the vote in 2016, the political establishment and Conservative governance have legitimised xenophobia and facilitated a full vote on the old Tory anxiety of Europe.
Brexit meant different things to different people, and it’s true that overlap and extension of ideology is expected. But after two years of now state-sponsored racism, a policy that threatens rights and liberties, and serious social conflict – is Brexit really the best way to unite a nation?
The anger has been poured onto every conceivable platform, and society is under real risk of social instability. You can see this from the open arguments and shouting matches that opposing forces have in public places. I was witness to a woman wearing an EU flag t-shirt getting accosted by two elderly men asking her to get rid of it. Such anger-fuelled mockery.
The vehicle for far-right and xenophobic politics must be condemned to the place from whence it came. Brexit is an acidic injustice on people wanting to make the UK their home. As Sabine Voigt described it, it just doesn’t feel like home anymore.🔷
TWEET THIS STORY NOW:
(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com)