My 350 on BREXIT: Calais and post-Brexit Britain

We are no longer an empire and yet the legacies of imperialism are present every-day.

Daniel Martin
17 July 2016

What will become of the French border post-Brexit? The Touquet Accord signed in 2003 moved the UK border to France, meaning British officials can check passports and deny entry. The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart has said that the “British must take on the consequences of their choice” referring to the referendum decision to leave the European Union. Bouchart’s assertion whilst it echoed more generally throughout the EU itself has been dismissed by a government source who stated that accords are not going to be broken. The failure post-Brexit to legitimately ask the question “who is responsible and who is to blame” (Follis, 2015) for the refugee crisis puts those trapped in even more of a political stalemate than before.

Where then does this leave France and the United Kingdom and the thousands trapped at the border? Bouchart is correct to suggest that the border should be moved back to the United Kingdom, we are no longer an empire and yet the legacies of imperialism are present every-day. In doing so, any number of things could happen immediately: the majority could be immediately deported, placed in detention or in a rare act of common sense, be granted asylum as their circumstances are given greater emphasis and due care. Whilst many things could happen, one thing is clear – a backlog would occur with growing numbers already in detention centres.

A desirable country?

It is worth considering the possibility that those trapped would not even wish to enter the United Kingdom with the growing numbers of racist and xenophobic attacks post-Brexit. Instead as the nation internalizes and reproduces the anti-invader rhetoric that marked many years of colonialism and backlash throughout the empire, it has managed to achieve what it could not by being within the EU – to make the country an intolerable place for its own citizens let alone that of refugees and asylum seekers.

Can it be un-done?

Is there worse to come?

I do not have the answers but what the rise of attacks would suggest is that attitudes, albeit from a minority, have not changed and will only get worse. Anti-immigration rhetoric and narratives are now legitimised, giving greater authority to far-right groups. To what extent those groups and individuals will deepen the divisions of an already divided country remains to be seen.

In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.

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