The UK has finally left the EU. After three years of ups and downs and three different prime ministers, the UK had finally fulfilled the Brexit promise of the 2016 Referendum and declared itself independent once again.
And in those three years, there has been a lot of news coverage, elections and social media reports about how the referendum was determined. Still, a lot of people seem stuck on the fence between the leave vote being an act of racism and xenophobia, or being one of genuine concern for the country. And any person ruling wholly in favour of a singular side is lying to themselves. There are a lot of historical reasons for the UK not wanting to join the EU; matters of pride, foreign policy, racism and a little bit of all three. And these three combined ideas have changed the way a majority of the country has voted and determined the leave vote.
On the one hand, racism has been a significant factor in the Leave vote. Brexit has definitely given bigots the excuse to talk reckless and demand that people speak ‘the Queen English’. These people forget that Britain has been built from the ground up by non-English people, forced into British society to by colonial forces bent of obtaining economic power for Britain to maintain the façade of an independent Great Britain, regardless of the human cost. And without the connection to the EU, it remains to be seen whether Britain will be able to main the title “Great Britain” in the post-colonial era. But is racism, the sole reason for the Leave vote? Not at all.
Having a Torie government has inevitably had an effect on the Leave vote. But for many metropoles, this doesn’t make sense because there is an assumption that that the Leave vote would have been placed by a type of people, working-class, white, outer London, who would have typically voted Labour. And while this may still be the case in big cities, many Londoners forget that there are whole stretches of land between London and the Scottish border, that do not have the same ethnic diversity of The Capital. These areas have their own issues and often feel alienated from the decisions of The Capital.
It is for that reason that during the December 2019 general elections, the BBC summarised that the Tories won by 162 seats over Labour with Labour down by 59. Conservatives types were, once upon a time, easily distinguishable- white, middle-aged, to mature, upper-middle-class and from areas such as Windsor, Chelsea, Richmond. They were among the most commonly associated with the Conservative party. And these stereotypes about the upper middle classes have changed little, with these areas remaining overwhelmingly Conservative.
The Labour party Supporter, however, has changed dramatically. Initially, a party for the working classes, the labour party garnered support from ethnic minorities and the white working class. And while many ethnic minorities continue to vote Labour, the latter group of people are, potentially, the most significant swing voters of recent elections.
And it is tempting to simplify these changes in thought to sheer racism and bigotry, but, while this undoubtedly plays a significant part in the Voter’s thought processes, there is a larger concern underpinning all of this.
The fear of being overlooked.
It was this fear that created the Labour party in the first place, and it is this same fear which has lost them, and other parties, their votes and pushed us into the decision to leave the EU. Labour’s policies, of tackling climate change, reducing poverty, and stopping Brexit all seem ambitious and far fetched and consistent with the ideas of world peace rather than British prosperity. Meanwhile, the Conservative’s promises of British independence (if it has ever existed) and their apparent drive to keep Britain, self-sufficient appear to be more appealing. Added to their pledges for less taxation; pension rises, an increase in nurses, a cap on the number of lower-skilled migrants allowed into the country and veering little more towards nationalism every day seems to benefit the individuals of the lower middle classes more directly.
And they cannot be blamed- we all vote in our own interest- do these votes seem to exclude a large number of migrants? Most definitely.
But with the promises made by Johnson and the Leave campaign to improve the conditions of life for British nationals, by excluding non-nationals, it is easy to see why so many have backed Brexit. But whether the government can live up these grand dreams post-Brexit- and at what cost- time will only tell.
To hear more about the History of Britain’s relationship with the EU, you can listen to Prof. David Reynold discuss it in more detail on the History Extra Podcast. Link below: