THE BLOG

Brexit And Gibraltar Shows The UK's Appetite For Empire Has Not Waned

07/04/2017 16:36 BST | Updated 07/04/2017 16:36 BST
JORGE GUERRERO via Getty Images

Although it is widely assumed that the British Empire has long been left behind, the recent clamour for war over Gibraltar is evidence to the contrary. We need to remember that the UK did not voluntarily give up its Empire. Economically and politically rocked by the Second World War, it did not have the power to fight growing resistance in the former colonies. Bailing out was the only option.

Britain has always held onto the image of itself as a great colonial power, an image superficially bolstered by the pedalled pomp of Parliament, Democracy and the Monarchy. Despite struggling to define what it means to be British, whether it is possible to have a national cultural day, the debate hasn't got beyond the right of the English to hoist the flag of St George on 23 April.

In order to prove their Britishness, people wishing to become British have been required to demonstrate this by various 'cricket tests', in other words, proving their right to live in the country by choosing Britain or a Home Nation, over their own country of origin in a competitive situation such as a cricket match against their country of origin or heritage. The notion of a cricket test allegiance is still prevalent and rises at times of international competition in which British home nations are competing. British people with heritage of other countries are expected to drop all but the most neutral vestiges of their original culture. Being black or an ethnic minority in Britain tends to weaken people's claim to being British, and although they can have the legal status and hold the passport, they will never have a moral claim to being British and will always be asked 'where do you come from'.

Brexit will hurtle Britain along this pointless time tunnel, to fight for a past that has long disappeared. What is it in this country's psyche that makes it hunger to be on top? Who told the British they must always conquer others?

The current rhetoric over Gibraltar, the call to arms to uphold sovereignty at all costs has seen Britain blindly walk into a trap set for it by the EU. This trap was to strip Britain back to a former version of itself, a version long ridiculed by Europeans. The competent, but deluded, pompous and grandiose gentleman who walks fully booted and suited along on a hot sunny day, and is bemused when this attire is uncomfortable and he is forced to make adjustments. Removing the hat, the tie, and perhaps rolling up the sleeves. He does so, but with some discomfort, mostly about the loss of demeanour, and dignity which matters above all.

Brexit and Gibraltar exposes how an isolationist country will fare outside the EU, and Britain has fallen right down that trapdoor.

Take a test of Britishness to see if you measure up.