Why Brexit Happened
Last June, 17 million British people had voted over 16 million to leave the European Union. People on this panel were contemplating why.
Fundamentally all I knew at the start — was that Britain had exited. This session with its UK thought leaders would broaden my horizons.
Maybe this session’s one letter title really jumped out at me. I had a feeling something great was coming up when the crowd went spilling out of the aisles.
You look and for once at the Jaipur Literature Festival — it’s not a sea of dark heads around you.
Just about every foreigner has truckled here from all over the palace grounds. Everyone wants to know about the UK.
‘There’s more connection through Europe then we know. Did you know that Queen Victoria’s preferred language in private was German for example?,’ began Linda Colley, a redhead, bespectacled historian. ‘So I mean, we aren’t all that apart. We’ve been together since the Second World War. But given our continent’s explosive history, worry has exploded now that the UK has left. Perhaps beginning a conflict anew.’
‘Well it’s unquestionably Britain’s most divisive issue right now,’ said host Jonathan Shainin. He was a quick, humorous American who’d done his research well & would come up with witty combacks through the talk, while putting panelists effectively against each other.
‘How’s Brexit a bigger problem than Trump entering USA?,’ one’d say later on.
‘That’s exactly why I’m here,’ replied Jonathan, deadpan. Laughter broke out in the tent & I was struck by this world appeal, world’s punching bagginess of a single man. The joke was understood everywhere.
Thus the session began.
There was something that’d had to be gotten out of the way first. Given that this session was happening in the heart of India, you could sense the basic question in the air countrymen had.
Had the UK left because of empire nostalgia? Because of the control it’d had over its former colonies?
‘No,’ said Andrew Roberts.
He was a nice portly Englishman, firmly on The Leave’s side. ‘It’s more like freedom from political detriment. We knew the EU had such stifling control over internal UK politics, trade, already.’
I have a sheepish schoolgirl confession before we continue. At the risk of sounding incredibly stupid, I thought England was it. The whole country. Our former oppressors, imperialists — and all the freedom struggle we had learnt in our history textbooks. The vicious Angrez.
But Wales, The Republic of Ireland, Scotland & Northern Ireland weren’t far away, into Europe somewhere. The islands were right next to each other. Now it was like a neatly sliced pie in my head, five slices mind you.
A united kingdom.
‘Brexit could hurt our unity,’ said Linda Colley. ‘The voting was very divisive. Most Irish people voted to leave. What’s worrying is that this might cause internal conflict.’
She’d reason historically why Brexit had happened. ‘The EU was looked upon with relief after the war’s horrors, but the but UK’d never invaded. Maybe we’d never really felt connected to the EU.’
Someone else on the panel agreed that leaving could break UK apart. Timothy Garton Ash, a respected historian had said months before,
‘Brexit is the biggest defeat of my European Life.’
Now Mr. Garton said, ‘The very fact that voting differences were so slim, says not everyone decidedly wants to leave. Hasn’t the EU maintained peace for decades?’
‘Balderdash,’ Andrew Roberts quipped. ‘That’s the NATO you mean, not the EU.’
An applause followed these words.
Mr. Andrew would continue championing The Leave. ‘One of the most impressive things about Brexit is that no one got killed. It’s more impressive than the French revolution.’
The world had matured because it understood the value of human life.
A thought struck me that most future conflicts between MEDC’S might all be manipulation & cold mind games. A riddle for your head, but never a bullet passing through your heart.
Or a nuclear bomb, since the world was rightly terrified of them.
Brexit had ultimately happened. But nobody wanted bullying and international interference, panelists agreed. His statement regarding Brexit had made former President Obama highly unpopular with Brits. ‘If Britain left the EU, it could be left standing at the back of all our trade lines…’
This inflamed The Leave Campaign even more.
Historical, political aside, now you had your economic consequences.
The Leave Campaign had a big claim in its rallies that — UK wouldn’t have to pay truckloads of money to the EU if we left. Save the money. Put it in government hospitals or the NHS instead.
But actually, Timothy Garton argued, it had made the UK pound weaker. It’d cost every home roughly £4,300 by 2030.
There were advantages though.
Our host Jonathan discussed these advantages with Surjit Bhalla, the economist. Also the sole Asian on the panel.
The pound’s value had sunk. Which meant goods in Britain were cheaper, and that was positive news for traders because exports would increase.Sales would rise.
But Mr. Bhalla had another viewpoint to why Brexit had happened.
The rise of Asia.
‘It could be a natural consequence of the world become fairer. More equal. Asian productivity and economy has been rising as steadily as the West’s has been falling & settling down. MEDC’S are demanding labor from our highly trained professionals more than ever. We’re starting to produce more.
I mean, India is fastest growing economy in the world isn’t it?’
A huge cheer broke out at these words, and I thought I saw Mr. Jonathan do a small smile.
There was a last final angle to the Brexit pandemonium. All psychological & emotional.
Is Brexit a freedom issue?
‘If you’re a bricklayer or carpenter in Northern Ireland — you’re probably unemployed. The influx of Europeans has taken most of your jobs,’ said Andrew Roberts. ‘You & your whole town would be looking for jobs, factories closed.
Surjit Bhalla added that the UK also had little control previously, into whom it could let into its nation. Educated Indians often faced discrimination & visas were miracles. Because the European color ruled over credentials.
Panelists nodded in agreement.
It was astonishing how united they all were in disdain of their government.
‘Britain needs freedom. To stand on its own feet, to redefine itself. Equalize itself. Government officials never wanted to leave the EU. It’s the sprawling lower class, the jolly men in pubs, the struggling single parents— who want it.
‘We need to start a spark which unleashes demons. It sends trembles all the way to London & its high government.’
With all these emotional, political, economic angles twisting up, all this nationalistic talk— I felt like a Britanite. I didn’t feel like myself, the 15 year old Indian girl, at that moment.
I felt like somebody fairer, big boned & fluttering hands. Polite, educated, buttered English phrases rolling out.
Like a face in a blazing crowd.
This feeling helped me to believe that white skin didn’t mean suffering didn’t exist & problems welled into every nation of humanity. So often in our own country, white people are like a silver deer you spot.
But I could see how it was skin deep, I saw that we were united. Because emotion transcended borders. Brexit was all our issue, and how it turned out impacted everybody down the chain.
If I could feel like a Britanite today, maybe one day I’d have a larger ability. To feel like a true global citizen.
And you could too.
Thank you. ❤
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