British pride won the day. But is there a fall round the corner, one predicated on isolation and a loss of 350 billion pounds (around $475 billion) in potential ties to the European Union (EU)?
It was an exciting journey and now that the train has chugged into the platform, a divided nation has to stiffen that upper lip, put its sharpest ever controversy into the sheath and move on.
Let this vote not become a splinter in the side.
Colonial arrogance did play a part and much of the United Kingdom that voted to ‘Leave’ have done so because they feel they are being robbed, in many ways, by the migrants and, after the pound stops spinning, the flinty finger of accusation for all its ills will be pointed at the Asian and African migrant masses that have made UK their home.
It may not be another Brixton, but racial hooliganism has been given an encouragement and it will be a worrying factor. Race is back on the front burner.
The unofficial referendum clearly reflects the British state of mind and its exhaustion with being just another cog in a broken EU wheel. The grandiose idea of an economic club has pretty much collapsed. New age politics seem to hinge on more parochial values and deeper identity with the shrill nationalism. Emotion seems to have leaked into the political packaging and all the pundits underestimated that quotient in their estimates. Britons want Britain for the Brits.
If there is a price to pay, they seem ready to go Churchillian once again and fight in the streets (one hopes not literally) and will take it on the chin so long as they ‘get back’ their country. It is not xenophobic to recognise that the high level of tolerance that Britain usually shows has been whittled to the bone and the ‘friggin’ furriner’ is now a legitimate target. That immaculate patience has drained away. The borders will close.
Ironically and sadly this has happened against the expected run of play at a time when Donald Trump is singing much the same tune from across the pond. The same day Obama has lost the immigration Bill on a tied vote that affects 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. In India we have also found nationalism and its antithesis as powerful cards to play.
This British referendum, to a large extent, is a racial one and while we might all put the 350 billion pound spin on it and play let’s pretend it is really a vote for underscoring the ‘them’ and’ us’ factor.
Remember two elements. Scotland and Ireland have their own agendas and have voted to stay in the EU because that’s the logical step towards independence. Take them out of the vote pattern and if you look at the map you will notice that short of London the semi-urban population has opted out because it fears an increase in the invasion from outsiders. This is pure circling of the wagons stuff and fighting for God and country and bangers and mash and no more nice and curry.
You don’t like it, that’s the chalk on the menu.
It is all very romantic to think you have won back the country but harsh reality will set in when the EU hits back. There is always the irony that after this slap in the face, the 27 member EU might rework its parameters and actually become an effective body.
Truth be told, the UK was always a sulky member and never quite in the tent. Its departure also heralds the end of the several concessions David Cameron had arm-twisted out of the EU recently and was hoping for a major economic continental revival.
The empire is dead. Britain is a small nation and an island cannot afford to be one politically or economically. Immigration cannot be the core issue or else England risks falling into insular chaos. Either way there is nothing yet to celebrate because to mix a metaphor, you have to catch the ducks to put them in a row and one does not see that happening.
(Bikram Vohra is the Editorial Director of London-based Asian Lite. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com)