“It is not possible to ignore multiculturalism, its entrenchment or its abandonment, to a great extent will define the course of British society in the post-Brexit age”
Claudio Chipana Gutiérrez*
Brexit undoubtedly represents the complete opposite of any attempt to build an inclusive society based on the respect of difference, since the campaign to leave the EU ignited not only an anti-EU sentiment but also a largely anti-immigrant sentiment.
Brexit has appeared at a time where in recent decades, multiculturalism in the UK and Europe has become subjected to continuous attack, to the extent of being considered as a failed project.
The truth is that Brexit and multiculturalism are polar opposites. They belong to the opposing ideas of society and nation.
Brexit is not just a question of leaving the EU for bureaucratic reasons, there are also the questions regarding the understanding of the nation as a whole, its social composition, its diversity. On the other hand, Brexit relies on the longing for a mythical past of power and greatness.
In contrast, multiculturalism offers a distinct model of citizenship, with the recognition of the identity of minorities. But above all, multiculturalism has a positive attitude towards immigration.
However, in this very field it has lost support and consensus among the electorate due to a sustained campaign from xenophobic and populist movements like UKIP and the conservative party itself, backed by the right-wing media.
The referendum result in June 2016 directly reflects that media and political campaign that portrayed a strong populist and anti-establishment discourse by the “leave” supporters, that is to say, leaving the EU.
It translated into support for Brexit from an important section of the traditionally loyal labour working class in cities, especially in the north east of England, hit by economic depression, unemployment and the decline of manufacturing.
As a result, the view generated by the Brexit victory is adding a major dose of scepticism to the future of multiculturalism since it already disappeared from the official language some time ago.
A breaking point was in 2010 when former Prime Minister David Cameron and other European leaders declared the failure of multiculturalism.
However, sustainability of a society is needed for its continuation, otherwise it will end up in chaos.
It is not just important that a society is economically sustainable, it is also important that there is a minimum level of social cohesion. For the critics of multiculturalism this cohesion would only be achieved with assimilation and the loss of ethnic minority identity together with the promotion of anti-immigrant policies.
Once article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is activated Great Britain will have fully entered the post-Brexit age.
Whatever new relationships are established with the EU, multiculturalism will continue to be a viable answer to inter-ethnic relationships and diversity that is already inherent in British society. Only multiculturalism could serve as a retaining wall from future racial conflicts on condition that the State re-adopts the implementation of integration and inclusion policies.
Also, Brexit has already generated a migration problem for more than 3 million European citizens living in the UK.
The conservative government has been accused of delaying through political calculations a viable solution for these citizens who like the other immigrants contribute to the national economy.
Immigration was the reason for the Brexit victory, but it can also be the cause of the failure of governmental policies that run against multiculturalism.
It is not possible to ignore multiculturalism, its entrenchment or its abandonment, to a great extent, will define the course of British society in the post-Brexit age, even more when political and racial tensions – with the increase of Islamophobia and ultra-nationalism – are potential threats to the stability of the nation.
*Peruvian philosopher living in the UK. Founder of the Centre of Latin American Identity, CLI.
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Claire Donneky – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)