The Blog

The Dark Side Of Brexit

For the first time since I voted for Brexit, I feel genuinely uncomfortable about the emerging discourse. I thought those dealing with Brexit would act in the best interests of all who contribute to British society. How wrong I was.

I'll start with a disclosure. I voted for Brexit. Not on nationalistic grounds. Not because I believe the £350m a week for the NHS nonsense. I made my call based on what I believe to be a well-informed and objective view that the EU wasn't working for the people.

The EU lost me with its handling of the global financial crises. It put the interests of casino capitalism firmly ahead of those of the people and stream-rollered democratically elected governments. I shuddered at the huge democratic deficit and I didn't think reform from within was likely or possible.

I voted for Brexit in good faith. A faith that Brexit, if it came about, would have been overseen by Cameron et al who despite their failings would oversee it in an intelligent and pragmatic way, underlined with a general sense of fairness and a moderate tone.

I feel badly let down. For the first time since the vote for Brexit, I feel genuinely uncomfortable about the emerging discourse. I thought those dealing with Brexit would act in the best interests of all who contribute to British society. How wrong I was.

The Brexit vote, if handled correctly could create an opportunity for Britain to build an even better, fairer and more democratic society. Britain could have opted to take the best of the EU and add to it. In truth this now seems like an overly optimistic pipe dream.

It started this week when Liam Fox said that the rights of EU citizens to remain in Britain post Brexit wouldn't be assured, because doing so would be giving up a 'negotiating card'. Nice. Seemingly a senior cabinet minister, sees EU citizens who built lives here as nothing more than negotiating cards.

It got worse when Amber Rudd told the Tory conference that businesses would be forced to list the number of foreign nationals they employ. Another nice touch. Alarm bells really began to ring as it dawned on me that Fox's words weren't in isolation or off the cuff.

The grim reality is that those running the show clearly see foreigners as somehow less worthy. Nefariously they seem to believe that it's ok to play politics with their lives and livelihoods. In other words, they are fair game. I might be wrong but I'd bet that many leave voters don't share these views.

For me, and many others in Britain, the terrifying thing isn't that these views exit. They always have and always will. The BNP are testament to that. No, the real worry is that people holding these views are no longer consigned to the margins. Post-Brexit, they are front and centre with their hands firmly on the levers of power.

Fast forward to 2024 and five years into post Brexit Britain. What sort of Britain will Fox and Co. have created? Will foreigners be stripped of employment rights? Will firms be told that they must employ Brits even if it means sacking foreigners who are in post?

How about housing, education, health and the legal system? Will they be able to avail of legal aid? Will they be deported for minor crimes? I would have laughed at the thought of these question being valid until very recently. Now I'm not so sure. To my mind, Brexit wasn't meant to raise any of these questions.

I am reminded of the kids that I taught when I was secondary school teacher in London. I came across plenty of young people from Eastern European backgrounds who moved here when they were very young. They sounded British, they looked British. Culturally, they pretty much were.

Are we now entering a time when an 18 year old whose parents moved to London when he was one, is no longer sure of his place in the society in which he grew up? Or will he be allowed to stay but his mother with her still distinctively Polish accent will be told to 'go home'? Is that what Brexit and modern Britain is meant to be about? I don't think so.

I might make another disclosure. I moved to Britain as a boy. Twenty five years later I'm still here. I sound English. I have a British sounding name. I'm indistinguishable from any 34 year old British man walking down the street. I went to school here, studied at British universities, taught in British schools, worked here and paid British taxes, and even stood as a candidate in British local elections.

In a small way, I and many more like me have helped to build modern British society. But ultimately, I am one of those foreigners. For the first time in my adult life, I'm not sure that I feel entirely comfortable in Britain anymore. This despite the fact that after 25 years living here, I am in a social and cultural sense at least, pretty much British. I am not alone.

I mistakenly had faith in the political establishment. I didn't account for Cameron's abdication of duty, or Labour's implosion. I might well have made a chronic error of judgement. Brexit was meant to mean Britain's exit from the EU, not the destruction of a modern, progressive society. This is the dark side of Brexit.