Brexit: The Iron Curtain of the 21st Century

25/07/2016 16:41 | Updated 25 July 2016

In this article Mohammad Zahoor, publisher of the Kyiv Post, examines Brexit from an international perspective.

For the last four weeks, a barrage of Brexit-related themes have been discussed in geo-political group therapy: The David Cameron legacy, the socio-demographic statistical post-mortem of the Remain corpse, the dimensions of economic fall-out fort the United Kingdom as well as for the rest of the world, the disappearing act of all major Brexit protagonists, the implosion of British leadership (Tory and Labour), the wars of succession and last but not least: Article 50.

This is a lot to process, but it is the overall tone that confuses the international community. The tonality in which this crisis is being discussed is very much along the lines of 'keep calm and carry on'. This business-as-usual-attitude does not acknowledge the grievances and concerns of the international community, both abroad as well in the UK, that are very much affected by this current state of limbo.

Every week the international community is bewildered by how disorganised - if not incompetent - this transition is being handled, as there is not even clarity on governmental- or legal procedure. It is understood that the referendum is of advisory nature, and that parliament is sovereign. Nevertheless, Theresa May proclaims that‚'Brexit means Brexit' as if it is her decision to make. And then the British media takes the soundbite and sells it as a fait accompli, even though there is a general understanding that 75% of members of parliament supported Remain during the EU referendum. Where have they all gone?

Yet on the other side of EU-land, intellectuals, journalist and political activists from former Warsaw Pact nations and Soviet Republics focus on a different set of questions that do not seem relevant enough to make page one in the British or Western media. And these questions all circle around one theme - What does this new reality mean to the perception of Eastern European peoples?

Unlike the British, the rest of Europe has not forgotten that Winston Churchill was one of the founding fathers of the EU and that it was in this spirit that the United Kingdom was one of the historic proponents of active EU enlargement. Tory policy used to acknowledge the West's moral debt for allowing Eastern European countries to fall into the Soviet sphere of influence. They saw the EU as an important tool to secure peace and democracy in these young nations, mercantile considerations were a distant third.

A lot has changed since then; Theresa May's administration is prepared to declare the moral debt paid and peace no longer an asset worth investing into. Access to the single market the only aspect that is desirable and everything else about the EU is nuisance that is no longer worth tolerating. Within a generation, the British people have forgotten that membership in the EU was about exerting influence, about conveying British values to a European society.

Brexit was won on issues of migration and now Great Britain has to find the courage to articulate what in the past was only insinuated: Britain is considering the reintroduction of a one-sided, international class system, abolishing the concept of European egality among its citizens. Should the United Kingdom choose the discontinuation of free movement over the issue of access to the single market, Eastern Europeans will most certainly move elsewhere travel coach. Continental Europeans were already somewhat bewildered that both the British government and media singled out Bulgarians and Romanians when it came to the discussion free movement, but as we look at the current dynamic, soon Polish- and Baltic residents in Great Britain will share the feeling of being second class citizens. For tactical reasons, the current Tory government has chosen to hold more than three million EU residents hostage and reduce them to bargaining chips in a game of All-In-Brexit-Poker.

With these kinds of shameful manoeuvres, the current government is in the process of sacrificing the moral high ground that Brittania has defended over centuries. The United Kingdom faces a diminution and might well become a nation of self interested shopkeepers. It would be the first time that a leading industrial nation has chosen to turn its back on her international responsibilities in order to become a more glamorous tax heaven. By lording an image of mass deportations over its EU residents, Great Britain is causing en passant more damage to the EU than any other regional power has managed to accomplish in a concerted effort.

By Mohammad Zahoor