Brexit isn’t the issue. A hostile and convoluted culture war in Britain prevails
With the catastrophe of Brexit comes a cacophony of opinions and assaults on people’s differing views on a British way of life. The referendum on exiting the European Union was a stark reminder of the colossal cultural war that pervades the British political landscape. The result and the subsequent negotiations of Brexit have engineered fear and hatred within a simmering boiling pot.
Whilst parliament battles internally with whether the UK should remain a member of the customs union and whether they should avoid a hard border with Ireland seems futile to what the referendum really conveyed. The Leave result was a rallying crying from the far right. The likes of migrant-bashing Nigel Farage and his staunchly conservative chum in Boris Johnson evoked hostility towards migrants through a vast and coordinated national campaign. What followed was the Leave voters’ desires for Britain to become almost completely intolerant on immigrants by ending freedom of movement. This view, with the blame put mostly on Farage and Johnson, was an abject critique of a multicultural Britain that had been formed under its imperial past.
Now, the Britain that was once thought to be inclusive has now demonised nationals from foreign backgrounds, specifically targeting the Muslim and Jewish communities. Their excuses are terrorism, a crippling infrastructure and an insurgent white nationalist subculture. The mainstream centre-left and centre-right parties have shifted further afield to appease a forever changing political trajectory. Whilst our prime minister becomes a sympathiser to the hard-right conservatives within her ranks, the passionately socialist and current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has angered many of his moderate colleagues in the centre.
It isn’t only the entitled white man that has condemned the country and its politics for vilifying them. The ethnic minorities of the country have pushed back and are incensed at the marginalisation of their religions and cultures. In Birmingham, a protest against teaching young primary school pupils about LGBT relationships has seen the national curriculum receive harsh repudiation from the Muslim community. Many staunch Islam followers believe their children are being forced to adhere to the encouragement of LGBT relationships, which is in contrast to their religion that has always perceived homosexuality as a sin. Meanwhile, numerous Jewish groups have publicly discredited the Labour party for failing to tackle the incessant antisemitism that has put pressure on the party’s anti-racist reputation. In a nine-month timespan, approximately 250 Labour members were removed, suspended or had received formal warnings for their antisemitic language. The Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East and its association with antisemitism has crept its way into British politics too. A lot of people are offended with anti-Zionist views, an opinion the hard-left figures of the Labour cause have upheld in their foreign policy ideology for some time. There is a succinct blurred line between condemning the hard-line Israel government and blatant hate-fuelled and barbarous antisemitism.
The culture war also has a geographical tone and is not just affiliated with someone’s race or identity. The North/South divide in the U.K and its connotations has left a sour taste for decades. London and the South East has always been a region that has been the focal point for the country’s marketplace and economy. Therefore, incumbent governments are prone to disproportionately fund the south compared to the north, penetrating frustration in northern communities who have seen their industrial communities disappear. Although this still has a significant impact in cultural differences that has posed a threat to British values, the youth of inner London are facing danger with a surge in violent knife crime. Since the beginning of 2019, there has been 20 fatalities due to knife crime in and around London. The sheer underfunding of youth services, education and social care has been an effect of harsh austerity measures that have ravaged a country for almost ten years. The epidemic of violent crime in London also highlights the racial disparities, as more black and Asian teenagers are the perpetrators. This is an emphatic expression of racist undertones that has perpetuated throughout British culture. With young BAME teenagers not being heard brings a sense of worthlessness where the streets and gang culture seems the only viable option.
To understand Brexit and why Britain is in this mess, the widespread culture war that has waged war on British multiculturalism is a signal to the increasing polarisation the country faces. If facts were presented and riled-up theories about immigration and government were banned, maybe the U.K could have seen a different and more approachable EU exit. Once Theresa May has delivered Brexit or revokes on the negotiations, it will still not address the underbelly of intolerance in Britain that has slowly become more mainstream. Brexit is just a catalyst of a years-long culture war that the British government have been in denial about for far too long.