The British, or rather the English, voted for Brexit not because of over-regulation or dissatisfaction with the economy or because European bankers screwed Greece and Ireland and would do the same to the Brits, but because they hate foreigners and believe they are superior to continental Europeans.
Not all of them mind you but an awful lot, some 17 million of them who plumped for the Leave campaign in the referendum. (It would be interesting to see just how the English vote went but I’d bet the Brexit margin was a good deal larger than the overall result)
That they loathe the French, Germans and Italians and look down on the minor European countries, when they bother even to notice them, has been a feature of English culture – frequently expressed in TV comedies, invariably set during World War II and full of excruciating racial sterotypes – all my life.
That racism is, of course, not confined to the European continent. Ask the Irish, Scots and even the Welsh about that. But at least they are white and, more or less, speak the same language.
But what sharpened all those horrible emotions was the influx of stranger Europeans, like Poles and Romanians whose language, food and culture was, to the English, utterly alien.
And I suspect the promised/threatened influx of Turks tipped the balance in Thursday’s vote.
The idea that much of English economic life would be decided in part by Germans and French was bad enough but having to share their cities and towns with Turks, Poles and Romanians was too much for the English to bear.
When the Leave campaign complained about immigration it was to this base and reactionary emotion they were appealing to. The execrable Nigel Farage – surely Denis Thatcher reborn – is their leader. Meanwhile in France, English soccer fans gave all this an uglier but in its way more honest shape.
None, or very little of this, will feature in the Brexit post-mortems. That’s a pity, not least for those remaining in the EU. They might conclude that Europe is better off without such people in their midst.
I think you got it right Ed.
Sent from my iPhone Edmund Lynch
you mean ed lynch believes i got something right? (sound of fainting body hitting the floor!)
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I emigrated from the UK 12 years ago and since then the veil has fallen from my eyes on the truth about my own nation.
Your blog has been a particularly educational experience for me as I have used it to make sense of a conflict that was a constant (although somehow background) issue growing up in the 80’s/90’s in England. Looking back at those times through The Broken Elbow I see through the propaganda machine that informed me of the ‘troubles’, for what it truly was, a colonial war.
Thanks for this blog it’s been truly educational.
All the things I thought of as English values, tolerance, compassion, sticking up for the under-dog are lies and by looking at the result of Brexit I can see these are not English values at all.
It pains me to conclude the last line of your commentary is true. I have lived in New Zealand for the last 12 years and at least I can claim to be a Kiwi now
thanks stu. much appreciated
I emigrated from Dublin to UK in’86 and have lived in Scotland since ’87. Like most people here I am really gutted by the outcome of the BREXIT Poll. I read your post and agree with your analysis of what has lead to this debacle that is BREXIT. In your closing paragraph you indicated that post-mortems are unlikely to feature sentiments similar to yours on English nationalism. However, please see link below to a piece by (of all people!) Alastair Campbell – not a fan I hasten to add.
Every cloud … #indyref2 for Scotland looking likely so here’s hoping.
Enjoyed reading your book on the IRA and was an avid reader over the years of your Northern Notebook in the Irish Times.
many thanks brian!