Since the referendum’s result, there’s been a chorus of people repeating that the country is divided and we need to put aside our differences, by which they mean that Remainers need to suck it up.
Politicians have pandered to voters saying that concern over immigration is legitimate. It is not, not in Britain and not at this time. Cuts in public services and shifts in work structures are legitimate concerns. The stress on public services is a result of government cuts. Migrants have contributed to our economy and government coffers; yet the government has made cuts to public services and blamed migrants for every ill.
During the campaign and following the result, we have witnessed a wave of xenophobic attacks directed at European citizens and British minorities. They have been insulted, beaten up, had their windows smashed, and a shop has been fire-bombed. Apologists for Leave are keen to say that Leave voters aren’t all xenophobes and racists; yet it is quite extraordinary that people didn’t stop to think that the Leave campaign was toxic, even after an MP was murdered on political grounds (mentally ill people don’t live in a bubble). Siding with xenophobes implies that one is not too concerned about xenophobia. People might have found Farage’s ‘breaking point’ poster, with echoes of Nazi propaganda, reprehensible, but not enough to question its flawed premise about the ills of immigration.
The master stroke of the Vote Leave campaign was the misappropriation of the working class. They successfully played on the lack of social mobility in British society and on a public with a working class consciousness. Vote Leave framed the narrative of Brexit as restoring the dignity of the working class robbed by the liberal metropolitan elite. They have deracialised the working class (ethnic minorities, as far as we know, voted overwhelmingly for Remain) and used the celebration of the nation in one’s own (very white) image to make people feel good about themselves.
Vote Leave has also made it ‘right and proper’ to sneer at metropolitan liberals, those who are open to diversity and immigration, those who gave us same-sex marriage, those who challenge gender roles. After being called ‘indecent’, traitors, and framed as the oppressive elite, Remainers are now told to ‘move on’. I’m not seeing Leavers being asked to take responsibility for the mess the country is in and the abuse foreigners and ethnic minorities are suffering. A democratic vote should come with responsibility. I ain’t moving on until you pick up your mess.
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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