Migrants, Multiculture

Brexit Britain has weaponised racism

The arrival of the Bibby Stockholm floating prison is a grim reminder to us all that fascism is never far from the surface of public life in Britain. Every country in the world has dabbled with various forms of ‘othering’, but Brexit Britain has weaponised racism.


Afghan Girl. © Steve McCurry / Magnum Photos / Flickr.  Creative Commons License.

Peter Cook*

From the moment that Nigel Farage adopted a Nazi inspired poster to stir up latent racism in Britain, he then won the Brexit referendum by the narrowest of margins.

Research from UK in a Changing Europe demonstrates that the austerity programme from 2010 – 2016 produced a 12% swing towards the 52: 48 result, as people looked for other people to blame for their concerns.

Foreigners are an easy target. Even Spain had their moment in the 1930’s when they forced half a million people from the country under the ‘cover’ of Nazi Germany’s rise.

The Brexit government are trying to persuade us that all the people coming to Britain are ‘illegal’ and ‘criminals’.

This is simply not true. Approximately 90% of people coming to Britain are legal refugees.  Of these, only a tiny proportion have criminal records. Before the “Stop the boats” campaign only 8% of British people cared about immigration.

The issue has literally been manufactured just like Brexit. Rishi Sunak’s government spin these lies out to deflect from the fact that the UK Home Office system for processing migrants is broken.

At the same time, we have massive skill shortages across many sectors, yet Sunak insists that people awaiting assessment cannot work. There is a better way to deal with immigration as I set out in this algorithm and via my two-minute EU Tube film on fixing immigration.

Many Brexit voters are surprised to learn that Brexit has exacerbated the numbers of people seeking refuge in Britain when they were told that we would ‘take back control’ of our borders.

After Brexit, Britain is a 3rd country. So, France has no compulsion to stop refugees travelling to Britain if they wish to do so under international law. This has been weaponised by the Conservatives who are threatening to leave the European Court for Human Rights as an election promise. In doing so they are playing to the gallery of British racist voters and people with feeble minds.

Left outside alone

Imagine leaving your native country because you were fleeing from terror. You may have been tortured and seen people killed. The situation was so bad that you put your children in boats to cross the Mediterranean sea and the English channel. During the journey, you saw some of your friends and family die.

Our Brexit Government say that this is all because the people doing this want a free operation on our NHS. I mean. Really? Who actually believes this?

Still I wonder if you know, how it really feels To be left outside alone, when it’s cold out here. Well, maybe you should know, just how it feels To be left outside alone”. Anastasia. (To watch the video click here.)

In 2018, 539 refugees and migrants ‘tried to reach Britain on small boats’. Many, however, were intercepted and returned to France per our return agreement with the European Union.
By comparison, in 2022, 45,755 refugees and migrants arrived in Britain with no right to return, claiming refugee status UN1952, which requires physical landing. 27 EU nations now only have to offer safe passage to a chosen destination and are no longer responsible for our borders, some 8,600 miles. This is the reality of Brexit in terms of ‘taking back control’.

In Limbo

The ‘othering’ done to people fleeing from terror is not just restricted to asylum seekers.

Since Brexit, we have made the UK such an unattractive place for EU citizens to live and work to that migration from EU Countries to Britain has dramatically reduced.

To the surprise and outrage of British Brexit voters living in Spain, their freedoms have also been reduced. Many seemed to think that freedom of movement would only apply in one direction.

This is one of the hallmarks of English exceptionalism that characterised the Brexit illusion.

“Then one day, your new country decides to vote to leave the European Union, which means that all the rules you have built your life on are going to change. One morning, after years and even decades, you suddenly feel unwelcome, unwanted, betrayed. Your certainties, your life and your security are gone. Your sense of identity too. Through no fault of your own, you are stuck in a painful limbo.” Elena Remigi, editor “In Limbo”.

I wrote and recorded a song to illustrate Elena’s book about the plight of EU citizens caught in limbo. This was a truly international effort, sampling the voices of 30 people across Europe and assembling the piece of music over three months. I produced a Spanish version of the song and the chilling film we made is below:

Elena talks of her own experience of being a citizen of nowhere:

“I went through all the exams needed to obtain naturalisation, an expensive process, which cost around £1500 per person. Despite having done all that was required, I was turned down by the National Checking Service when I brought all my documents as, being a dependant spouse, I had to prove that I lived here. Owning a house, a car, paying my utility bills, having listed 5 years of flights in and out of this country, was deemed insufficient. I was therefore asked to prove ‘my existence’ here through visits to the doctor, optician, dentist, having to send five years of bank statements (another 5 kg of evidence) to be allowed to naturalise – a Kafkaesque experience. No matter how many documents one can obtain, what really matters is to know that you are welcomed and valued in a place.”

Post-populist hope

A new wave of autocratic leadership is sweeping the world. Populism, Brexit, Trump are all characterised by single issues and the kind of didactic leadership that was more popular around 100 years ago.

The ‘losers’ in this battle of ideologies seem to be diversity, tolerance, respect and the view that we are all stakeholders on planet earth. We are better than this. Must we repeat the mistakes of the past to learn the lessons?

*Peter Cook leads Reboot Britain / Rage against the Brexit Machine.  Author of three books on Brexit, six albums of protest songs, inspirational anthems and 400 films. He organises collaborative events online and grassroots activism “to educate people that Brexit has failed and that we can and must rejoin the EU as a priority”. 

(Photos: Pixabay)

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