he referendum in the UK on whether the country should remain in the European Union (EU) or leave it –‘Brexit’ is over.
For better or for worse, the majority of UK’s voters opted to leave the EU. The campaign to leave the EU was not based on economics. The Bank of England had warned that leaving the union would have an adverse effect on the UK. The campaign to ‘leave’ initially led by Nigel Farage of the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) based itself on populist issues and roused anti-immigrant fears, disguised as a bid for independence from the EU.
In 2004 the EU began making efforts to rope in nations of the former communist bloc in an effort to isolate Russia. But the move backfired as citizens of the communist bloc, who were poor, began to move to richer countries like the UK, France and Germany, in search of employment. They also began using the welfare-state facilities of these countries.
The large numbers of people claiming welfare facilities soon brought the facilities to a breaking point. These events led to the growth of anti immigrant sentiments and hatred, which in turn, saw the birth of xenophobia among sections of the population in those countries. An example of this rise in migrant increase and parallel rise the rise in anti Immigrant political parties is best exemplified in the rising fortunes of the UKIP.
Between 1993 and 2014 the foreign-born population in the UK more than doubled from 3.8 million to around 8.3 million. In the past 10 years, UKIP’s poll numbers have soared: It got 4 million votes in the 2015 election, the third-largest national vote total in the country.
While The EU represented a coming- together of people open borders and an opportunity for the integration of people and a widening of horizons beyond parochial country and nationalistic boundaries, ‘Brexit’ is a victory for xenophobia, narrow nationalism and exclusivity among the British people.
Britain’s vote to leave the EU in fact only exposes the xenophobia, racism and exclusivity of the proponents of Brexit who do not see the role their own country played in creating the migrant crisis within Europe, nor do they recognise the role NATO and US played in their regime change schemes to control the mineral and petroleum resources of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria which led to a mass exodus of humanity from those countries.
Britain’s decision to leave the EU is also a leap into the unknown - with no plan to face the consequences of the breakaway. Brexit in fact appears to have triggered an impending implosion of the UK itself.
Scotland and Northern Ireland voted by almost a two-third majority to remain in the EU. In the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU, Scotland’s First Minister said she would be calling for a new independence referendum to secede from the United Kingdom, within “...the next few months...”.
Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin Mc Guinness has called for a vote on Irish unity because Northern Ireland also voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.
Sadly the seeds of similar patterns of behaviour can be seen in other strong economies in Europe as well from PEGIDA in Germany to Marine Le Penn’s National Front (NF) in France and the Freedom Party in Austria.
Sri Lanka too came close to falling prey to xenophobia during the regime of President Rajapaksa, who began making out that Muslims, Tamils, Christians et al, as enemies, who were attempting to make the Sinhala-Buddhists second class citizens in their own land.
Mobs of opportunistic Sinhala-Buddhists in tow with Rajapaksa attacked minority communities with total impunity. Fortunately the Sri Lankan electorate proved more enlightened and at the presidential polls in 2015 cast Rajapaksa and his hangers-on into the dustbins of history The Donald Trump phenomenon in the US today too is based on this same xenophobia, and promotion of a white supremacist agenda.
Trump’s call to build a wall along the Mexico-US border to prevent immigrants coming into the US from Mexico, a total ban of Muslim immigrants entering the US, and his sabre-rattling against China are but symptoms of the disease. Given the recent events of the June 24, 2016 in Britain, it is not difficult to see Trump being elected President of the US. But, as the saying goes, in a democracy people get the government they deserve and perhaps the Americans deserve Trump.
Meanwhile the political editor of our sister paper the ‘Sunday Times’ emphasises that a fallout of ‘Brexit’ which will affect the country negatively is a possible rise in interest rates which could affect the bond issue of US $2.5 billion due today (Monday). The funds are needed to repay outstanding loans and prevent “further deterioration of the balance of payments situation.