Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Ever since voters began to regret their decision to remain a member of the European Community by two to one in 1975, they have been increasingly side-lined in British politics, labelled as extremists or far-right radicals. Some have even suffered accusations of racism for wanting to exit what has become the European Union.
In 2006, David Cameron indolently branded Brexiteers in UKIP ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly’. The Independent newspaper this summer accused top Brexit supporters of ‘normalising racism in our politics’. Now without entering into the minutiae of the ethnographic anthropology of Europe to demonstrate how race really has nothing to do with the EU, it seems to me that the only people talking about race in relation to the Brexit debate are those on the Remain side seeking to discredit the arguments of those who oppose them.
Remainers bring race into the Brexit debate because of an ingrained misunderstanding of the function and status of the EU in global politics, leading them to associate anti-EU feeling with closed-minded, regressive far-right ideology. Many perceive the European Union as a pillar of liberal democracy and symbol of collaboration with our cultural partners – but in fact the four freedoms of the single market (goods, services, capital, labour) and the external tariffs of the customs union block close ties being formed with the rest of the world. This includes those nations on whom the United Kingdom has relied the most, whether it be Canada, whose army who fought with the Allies in the Second World War, or India, whose willingness to remain a member of the Commonwealth after becoming a republic demonstrated great levels of forgiveness and friendship.
In January, the Financial Times reported that ‘[t]he UK has hit its cap on skilled visas for non-EU workers for two months in a row for the first time as companies were forced to look further afield to make up for falling numbers of European immigrants’. This cap on non-EU workers was imposed after the strain of European migration into the UK was felt and reported back to politicians at the ballot box. Because the UK, as a member of the Union, cannot control migration from the EU, the government was forced to impose restrictions on global workers. This means that, whilst non-skilled migrants from Europe can fill gaps in limited sectors of our economy, a doctor from Bangladesh whose recent ancestors may have fought for Britain in the 1940s is barred from entry. Whilst we value the contribution of all migrants and welcome people from all nations into the UK, when we bear the facts in mind, it is difficult to see the European Union as a progressive, globalist project.
Brexit was never about bringing immigration down, or closing the borders. It was, and remains, about a realignment of Britain’s place in the world. Nobody said that leaving the European Union would involve severing trade partnerships with our European friends and allies. Brexiteers, instead of focusing inwards on 8% of the population of the globe, want to hold the hands of the rest of the Earth, becoming a truly global country, equipped with the qualities necessary to be an internationalist, forward-looking, twenty-first century nation.