We need to fight against Brexit racism
2018-12-01 13:59:56 -


By Mohammed Samaana


Just after the result of the Brexit referendum was announced in June 2016, I was personally subjected to racial abuse on a night out in Belfast.

While what led to Brexit is deeply rooted in Britain’s decades-long civil war between the pro-Europe and the anti-Europe members of its Conservative Party, which today is tearing the party apart, Brexit also became the dream land of the far right racists and xenophobes who campaigned for Brexit motivated by their illusion of superiority and resentment of free movement within the EU. This stems from their narrow-minded, exclusive ethnic nationalism disguised as genuine patriotism.

Before going any further, it is important to distinguish between two types of nationalism. The first is ethnic or tribal nationalism, which is characterised by racism and has produced political parties like the French Front National, the British National Party and Britain First. The second is civic or liberal nationalism which believes in the values of freedom, tolerance and inclusiveness.

This difference was explained by a young member of the Scottish National Party, who described ethnic nationalism as concerned mainly with where the individual comes from, while in civic nationalism, it does not matter where you’ve come from, it is all about where we will go together.

Back to Brexit — for us as minorities, Brexit will continue to produce more racism. It has already caused the closure of businesses and loss of jobs, and is more likely to lead to more of the same. Minorities are more likely to be used as scapegoats who will be blamed for any rise in unemployment. We will be portrayed by some as the ones who stole the jobs of the unemployed and caused their hardship.

It is important that we counter these arguments and emphasise that the Brexiteers who misled the UK public by lying about immigration and the dividends of a divorce from Europe are the ones to blame for any hardship.

Another possible way Brexit will impact on minorities is that we will be hardest hit as jobs become scarce. We will be first fired and last hired in adherence to the principles of ethnic nationalism, which grants exclusive rights and privileges based on ethnic origin, not qualifications and experience.

Scapegoating and incitement might also lead to racist attacks, and there is a strong possibility of that as the police figures showed an immediate rise in racist attacks after Brexit. The picture of a group of men dressed in KKK outfits outside an Islamic centre in Newtownards does not give any comfort here in the North.

Another way that minorities might suffer is if the negotiations lead to a hard border, or visa requirements to travel to other European countries. Those who were born in the North will be able to apply for an Irish passport which will solve their problem, including those who campaigned for Brexit. However, minorities in the North carrying a British passport and who were not born here do not have such privileges, and will face more restrictions on movement.

It has to be said that not all of those who supported Brexit are racists. Some elements of the left also supported the UK leaving the EU, which added the word ‘Lexit’ to the dictionary of politics. While there is a case for reforming the EU and making it more democratic, they have so far failed to explain their reasons for supporting Brexit.

No matter what may come, we need to fight racism with truth and maintain a united front.


Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.

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