Scotland needs to depart Brexit Britain

Arkadiusz Jozwik was murdered for the crime of being Polish and joins Labour’s Jo Cox as a victim of Brexit, the UK manifestation of the resurgence of the far right across Europe.

In the run up to the EU referendum it did not take a genius to predict that if Brexit came to pass it would unleash a wave of right wing consciousness such as the UK has not experienced since after the Falklands War. Britain’s victory against Argentina over the ownership of a small group of islands in the South Pacific — islands that stand as a relic of British colonialism — provided Margaret Thatcher with the impetus required to continue with the free market structural adjustment of the UK economy, allowing her to take on the unions and rip up the social contract that had obtained since the Second World War. The result was communities devastated and lives ruined as deindustrialisation did a more effective job of laying waste to large swathes of the country than Hitler’s bombs.

Opposing Brexit and supporting the EU in its current form were and are not mutally inclusive. But as much as the EU needs to be reformed in the interests of its citizens rather than big business and the financial sector that currently drives its political direction of travel, it was a last line of defense against a Tory establishment that has long relished the opportunity to pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights, a statutory requirement of EU membership, and get rid of the progressive legislation that we had enjoyed via the EU on workers’ rights and protections, maternity leave, paid holidays, consumer protection, and the environment.

Brexit was a political campaign driven by xenophobia, an ugly jingoistic British and English nationalism, and anti-migrant hatred, elevating the noxious politics of UKIP to mainstream acceptance and thereby poisoning the national discourse. To put it another way, when you have the likes of Nigel Farage, currently stumping for Donald Trump, talking about the need to “take our country back,” it raises the temperature against migrants and minorities, harking back to the 1930s when nationalism also took root in similar economic conditions of depression, austerity, and racial stereotyping and scapegoating. In a civilised society, the overtly racist poster Farage unleashed in the lead up to the EU referendum would have seen him banished from public life forever. Instead he’s paraded as a champion of British liberty and self determination, thus heaping shame on us all.

With Theresa May’s statement quashing any possibility of a referendum being held on Article 50 — i.e. Brexit means Brexit — I go from being a strong opponent of Scottish independence in 2014 to now being one of its most passionate supporters. With all 32 local councils in Scotland voting remain, there is no longer any denying that a marked difference in the political culture north and south of the border. Scotland needs to break from and depart this rotten hulk of 19th century British colonialism and get on with the business of building a humane and just society, one fit for the 21st century. The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon has been magnificent in the wake of Brexit, reassuring migrants in Scotland that they are welcome with a hand of friendship that has been in sharp contrast to the fist of fury migrants have received across England.

It will not be easy, let us not delude ourselves. The weaknesses that underpinned the case for Scottish independence in 2014 will need to be addressed. To be frank, it was a case and a vision that amounted to independence without independence, one which rather than constitute a break from the status quo had status quo written all over it. There needs to be a clear break from the economic, political, and institutional status quo, with a strong orientation towards Scotland’s Scandinavian counterparts, where the economy continues to be a servant rather than a tyrant, and were taxation is viewed as the foundation of civilisation.

There also needs to be a pre-guarantee of automatic membership of the EU. Without such a guarantee the case for Scottish independence the second time round will, I believe, be severely if not fatally weakened.

In the 1930s the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, before dying in one of Mussolini’s prisons, opined that, “The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. It is the time of monsters.”

In 2016 Brexit has unleashed this very monster in the form of an intolerant, xenophobic and, yes, racist society. Breaking from it on the basis of a humane, migrant-friendly alternative would not only be in the interests of Scotland and its people, it would also deliver a strong counterpunch to the forces of reaction, sending the message that in a Europe shrouded in darkness, Scotland stands as a beacon of humanity.

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