Lola Okolosie, Editor at Large
READ PART 1 HERE
Rashné Limiki has spent the past 15 years as an immigrant/educational-economic migrant. Her place in the UK is secured through academic work, but she finds escape and solace in writing. @rashnelimki
I have found taking a decisive position on this issue incredibly difficult – upto, and possibly beyond, the moment of this writing. I understand and agree with the arguments presented by Nadine, Aaron, and Jendella. I recognise the power of the symbolic – of who holds the narrative, and what a leave or remain vote might represent in this context. However, I am still uncertain on how to think about the material effects of this symbolic power. And as a result, I find myself with more questions than answers.
My inclination towards voting out is based on the conviction that devolution, or decentralisation, creates more possibility for resistance than centralisation. I’ve been thinking about this mainly in terms of migration and austerity, and not only in relation to the UK. For example, with regards migration, how do we dismantle Fortress Europe given just how many EU agencies (at least 4, it seems?!) in consort with national governments are involved in the detention and deportation of migrants? It seems more possible to bring down, or resist the building up of, a smaller rather than larger fortress. Similarly, what happened in/to Greece last summer is horrifying. Even though such a circumstance might not occur in the UK, I can’t help but question whether the EU needs to go. And, therefore, that this might be an opportunity that needs to be seized as a stepping stone towards the EU’s necessary and eventual demise.
Yet, what keeps me from feeling comfortable in this position is a wariness of the unpreparedness of the left, at least the British left, to seize the post-vote state of crisis and turn it into an opportunity. That is, are we in position and prepared for June 24th – regardless of whether the result is in or out? I seriously doubt it. For instance, there is a talk by Michael Dougan (Liverpool School of Law and Social Justice) in which he suggests that, should the UK vote to leave, it would trigger a comprehensive review of UK law since, over the last 40 odd years, it has been evolving with EU law. I am, of course, not sure what exactly that means (and, quite startlingly, Dougan himself notes that no one really knows what happens after the vote, either way). Regardless of whether and how this overhaul happens, to what extent is the left going to be able to lead or impede its direction? And are we going to be forced into a position of fighting more battles on more fronts?
Then there is also the question of how the right reacts to the vote. Most people I know are fearful that a Leave vote will empower the right – both, on the ground and in government. But I am not so certain that a Remain vote will quieten them. Could a ‘loss’ actually make the right more belligerent, unleashing more on-the-ground violence? I only bring this up because I wonder whether the fear of empowering the right is a sufficient reason to vote in, given that there is no way of knowing how people will respond. And, if we do vote in, the issue of immigration won’t disappear, of course. Instead, it is likely that immigration policy will pit EU versus non-EU (i.e. global south, black and brown) migrants against each other in more violent ways.
Which brings me, finally, to the unease I have with arguments made by non-British EU citizens in favour of staying in. While I sympathise with both the political and self-interested rationale behind them, I can’t help but feel that these arguments erase the impact that EU ‘freedom of movement’ has on global south migrants, and how anti-xenophobia positions don’t really account for the racism of EU and UK immigration policies. Does voting out, then, create more of an opportunity for a more holistic, anti-racist policy?
Maybe the long and short of it is, it doesn’t matter which way the vote goes. The more urgent question is: how do we prepare for the 24th and beyond? My genuine fear is less about the outcome of the referendum and more that we are not at all prepared for the aftermath – whichever way the vote goes!
Mobilisation can’t start soon enough…
Siana Bangura is a History graduate of the University of Cambridge, a writer, blogger, journalist, and Black British Feminist. She is the founder and editor of No Fly on the WALL, a platform to discuss, celebrate, and engage with Intersectional Feminism, with a special focus on the voices of Black British women’s experiences. For more, visit: www.noflyonthewall.com and online at: www.dontgotheresiana.com @sianaarrgh
I am still undecided and may actually vote ‘undecided’ on Thursday so as to at least make the most of my right to vote. I started off as being totally uninterested in this Referendum as, as a young black woman, it seemed that regardless of the decision I was pretty fucked anyway by this system. But I am very politically engaged anyway and as the conversation heated up I paid more attention and then thought I will vote to ‘Remain’. Mainly because as an independent artists trying to build Afropean links, I was thinking about the bother of possibly having to get a visa application every time I wanted to take a quick trip to the continent. Then after discussing this in Parliament with some intelligent debate, I found very reasonable people advocating a vote to ‘Leave’.
At first it seemed to me that it was just Farage, the BNP, and other racists saying this but I learnt that this was not the case. I myself do not feel European and I have no real affinity to Europe just as I do not feel ‘English’ and just about feel ‘British’. I also do think that the concept of an EU is actually racist and exclusionary. Nonetheless, I did also think about the fact that despite us paying far too much to be part of this little white male boys’ club (with the exception of Germany’s Merkel) even if we ‘saved’ that money by leaving, I doubt this rotten Tory government would redistribute that wealth accordingly and invest it in essential services and opportunities for young people like myself. If we do leave then this country will definitely do all it can to close our borders once and for all. If we stay I don’t think hostile attitudes to immigration will all of a sudden change. There is not utopia either way.
After the violent death of Jo Cox by a fascist terrorist, I am now back to leaning more to the ‘Remain’ side simply because this referendum, rather than fostering healthy debate about our place in the EU has been a gross demonstration of personality politics and has made room for violent racist and fascist voices to come to the fore once again. And they call this ‘free speech’ and ‘democracy’.
Maurice Mcleod is a social commentator with Jamaican/Swazi heritage. He is director of his own communications company, Marmoset Media, and writes regularly for The Guardian and The Spectator among other titles. He is also a trustee for campaign group Race on the Agenda. Maurice often appears on Sky News as a talking head and writes about social issues, race or politics. @mowords
At the risk of making this sound like some Eurovision approved choir, I’m finding it really hard to find anything to disagree with. As most of you so far have said, the mood of the Brexit campaign is toxic. The entire campaign feels like it’s been hijacked by Britain’s well-nurtured xenophobia.
Parties of all colours have joined in the anti-migration rhetoric for decades and so now, even though only a quarter of the migration into the UK has been from the EU, it is still a near unbeatable tool to batter Brussels with. Scapegoating migrants for the nation’s ills and then scapegoating the EU for bringing them here, is a game that has not been reserved to the Tories and UKIP. Let’s not forget Labour’s anti-immigrants mugs. The tragic murder of Jo Cox is the result of a culture where even supporting migrants makes you an enemy for some.
Some of the Brexit camp has cynically claimed that leaving the EU will free up the UK to accept more people from the Common Wealth. The IT expert from India has been brought up numerous times. Let’s be honest, the last thing Nigel Farage et al really want is more brown faces in the UK. You only need to look at how Turkey is being used as a boogeyman for an idea of what really motivates the Leave campaign.
Without wanting to sound like Jon Snow, there’s a bigger war coming and all that matters is how we best prepare for it. Climate change, terrorism, water shortages and the general growth of international capitalism will make this the century of the migrant. How the world deals with the movement of people will directly impact the lives of billions and how resources are divided will impact all of us.
Since mankind first stumbled out of the Great Rift Valley we’ve moved around to follow the resources. Invented borders and drummed up nationalism has given some people the idea that the accidental geography of their birth entitles them to not care about issues happening in other parts of the planet. For me, the only way we solve these world problems is with a world government and borderless world. The EU is a small step in this general direction. I believe in democracy and I don’t think the EU is anywhere near democratic enough but it’s better than pulling up our drawbridge.
By the way, many of the same people who have been banging on about sovereignty are happy to have a little old lady in a hat rule over them.
Dr Iyiola Solanke is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the School of Law, University of Leeds, where she teaches EU Law, Discrimination Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution. She is author of a textbook on EU Law (Pearson 2015), Discrimination and Stigma (Hart, forthcoming 2016) and The Evolution of Anti-Racial Discrimination Law (Routledge 2009). She has lived and conducted research in Germany, France, Spain, the USA, Australia, Canada and Tanzania.
A lot of wise words have already been said on migration so I won’t say anything more on that. My comments are late because I find it hard to find anything positive to say. For me, the reason for the referendum is absurd – it is already clear that it came into being because of an internal division between members of the Conservative Party. Also, the level of the debate is embarrassing – over the last few weeks I have often wondered if I am in a national playground rather than engaged in a discussion on the future of the United Kingdom.
If we do vote to leave, Brexit can be seen as the consequence of decades of our leaders first, ignoring the desires of the British public and second, the deliberate miseducation of the British public who have been treated like children by political leaders for decades. T
he popular voice has recently been raised and ignored on a range of issues from the decision to go to war in Iraq to fees for university education. This is the backdrop to the rejection of expertise across the political spectrum – why listen to ‘them’ if they do not listen to us? The referendum is a chance to force leaders of all political stripes to listen and the chance to make a difference – even if it is a difference that will be to long term disadvantage. The temptation to do the opposite of what the ‘experts’ who called the referendum want is understandably seductive. Citizens can finally ‘take control’ not only from Brussels but also from Westminster – even if so doing will be, as the saying goes, cutting off your own nose to spite your face.
Then there is the shameful failure to educate the public on the vagaries (and yes, there are many) of the EU. This task has been left to daily newspapers yet none have taken it seriously. Worse still, one newspaper (that shall remain nameless) has done its best to mislead by regularly confusing the European Union with the Council of Europe, and the Court of Justice in Luxembourg with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Thus the referendum debate has sown as much confusion as clarification on the EU, making voters giddy with (dis-) information overload and inducing a decision to leave simply to be rid of the source of the headache, even if it is also the source of valuable public goods from reduced mobile roaming rates to essential protections at work.
So I for one will not be surprised to wake up on June 24th to discover a majority voted to leave the EU. Those who vote to do so might be surprised, however, at some of the things that will remain the same.
- The UK will still be obliged to respect the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and comply with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
- Migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees from former colonised and war-torn countries will still seek to re-locate to the UK by lawful or unlawful means.
- British citizens and businesses will still experience the disappearance of jobs in the face of globalisation and the technological revolution.
- Home students will continue to pay high fees to study at UK Universities as these are set in Westminster not Brussels.
- The British summer will still bring more rain than sun.
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