It’s been five days since the result of the EU Referendum that took place last week, yet the effects are still being felt. The country is in disarray. The results were close with 51.9% voting to leave the EU and 48.1% voting to remain, showing that the country is heavily polarised. Following the results, on Friday morning, the Prime Minister announced that he would be resigning stating in his resignation speech that “The country requires fresh leadership …” This was followed by the intensification of in-party fighting within the Labour Party. Meanwhile, on Facebook, articles were popping up about the rise in the number of hate crimes being reported and video footage of racist incidents since Brexit.
Over the weekend, we at JAN Trust felt it necessary to tell our users that should they or someone they know experience hate crimes or hate incidents to call the Police in an emergency or report it using the online form on our website http://www.saynotohatecrime.org. It would appear that the result of the referendum has legitimised such overt expressions of hatred. As someone wrote on Facebook, referring to this increased racism “… let’s face it, things were already like this before Brexit, but we have had our heads in the sand about it far too often.” JAN Trust is only too aware of this, having worked to tackle deep-rooted racism, both overt and covert, directed at women from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) backgrounds since it was established in 1989. We have done a lot of work to challenge discrimination but also to build community cohesion.
It is important to note that not all those who voted to leave the EU hold racist and xenophobic views but immigration was a key concern for a number of those who voted to leave. The Leave campaign played on peoples fear of immigration arguing that whilst it was a member of the EU, Britain would be unable to control its own borders and in turn who came into the country. However, there were other reasons too which led the majority to vote to leave the EU and these must be carefully analysed and responded to in the right way.
An article by Matthew Goodwin, Associate Fellow, Europe Programme at Chatham House, in Politico magazine, titled ‘Inequality not personalities drove Britain to Brexit’ explores the factors that led to Brexit by taking a look at voting patterns which according to Goodwin show a country deeply divided along three lines: social class, generation, and geography. Immediately after the results were announced, the generational divide was highlighted with older voters choosing leave and younger voters choosing overwhelmingly to remain. However, since then discussion has moved on to inequality in Britain and millions who were deeply affected by austerity who mostly voted to leave, with Goodwin writing that “Brexit owed less to personal charisma than to a deep sense of angst, alienation and resentment amongst the financially disadvantaged” who have been hit hard by austerity. He gives the example of Boston in the East Midlands where 76% of those who voted wanted Britain to leave the EU. Boston is known for its high economic deprivation.
Again, JAN Trust is very familiar with the underlying causes and effects of poverty, deprivation and inequality. Since our creation, our work has focused on tackling these issues within the BAMER community at grassroots level.
In the same article, Goodwin also acknowledges the support for Brexit from those living in more leafy, affluent Conservative areas but there was also support from left-wingers who voted to leave the EU project in a stand against its imposition of neoliberal austerity.
What is clear to us at JAN Trust is that it is now more important than ever for all these issues to be taken seriously by politicians. They must break down the barriers which have led to this deep polarisation of British society and develop policies which aim to create a fairer and more inclusive democracy.