I’ve written a series of blogs on how Remainers are reacting to the Referendum and why we think Leavers voted Leave. You can read them in any order you like but, I’d suggest, you start with the introduction: It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel ashamed).
At this point, I’ve written about how all Leavers are racist and thick; these posts focussed on the section of our society with lower pay and fewer qualifications. To say that this was a revolution just from the bottom would be overstating the fact; this post, on nationalism, cuts across socio-economics, across geography, across the urban-rural divide.
I’ve heard Remainers call Leavers ‘nationalistic’ like it’s a slur, synonymous with racist and xenophobic. After Brexit, I think we all need to become a little more nationalistic.
Confluence of Nationalism and Racism
The voices which shouted down any discussion about immigration, fearing it was simply racism in a thin veil, managed to bring nationalism into that argument (or lack thereof). Nationalists – those who talked up Britain and the British – were seen and portrayed as racists by another name. It was a mistake.
Every time the EDL come to Bradford, every time they go anywhere and the national media gives the oxygen of exposure utterly unwarranted by the low impact of the low numbers in attendance, I am angered. They use my flag, the union flag, holding it up as a standard under which the British should flock to shout abuse at anyone who looks different to their low ideals. Nationalists, including me (a Remainer), use that same emblem, our flag, as a source of pride. I’m proud to be British; I’m proud that I’m not racist. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
British is Best
When speaking with Leavers before the vote, the lack of control kept coming up. Brussels has imposed this and the EU has made us do that and Europe forced us to do the other. It was us versus them.
Listening to Vote Leave and the Leave media, it would be difficult not to come to this conclusion. Picking statistics selectively to paint the EU is a tyrant crushing the Britain and Britons under a German boot, Vote Leave grabbed the hearts and pride of swathes of people who are, rightly, proud to be British.
Thinking and treating Leavers like they were thick and didn’t understand the way the EU works, I patiently explained why they were talking bollocks. In fairness to me, they were talking bollocks. The UK had voted on the winning side in the EU 95% of the time: I was proud of Britain taking a leading role in European politics, making others play by our rules, live by our beliefs and moving forward together in a direction we’d want. I was proud of Britain and its leading role in Europe.
My nationalism led me to be proud of my country and its place in Europe.
I challenged Leavers about their view that Britain was being dominated by an overbearing, tyrannical super-state. I showed statistics and references which demonstrated that Britain led in Europe, not followed.
- Their “The EU makes most of our laws” was countered with “The EU makes only 13% of our law”.
- My “UK wins 95% of votes” was countered with “That’s overall but they impose the important ones on us; those are the ones we lose” to which I countered “Which ones?” to which an answer never came.
- Their “They shouldn’t be making our laws” was countered with “We have MEPs and a Commissioner in there making our laws for all of us” was countered with “They shouldn’t be making our laws” to which I asked “Which EU laws don’t you like?”… and there was silence.
I believed I’d won the argument: we make EU law, we influence other people, we win the votes and the laws passed are ones we want. I hadn’t won the argument at all because, to these nationalist Leavers, a law passed by a non-British politician was them doing to us, even if the law was wanted, needed and desirable.
What the Polling Says
Leavers owned many arguments but, according to the polls, the reason most gave for voting Leave was that decisions about the UK should be made in the UK: British people should be making decisions about Britain: we know what’s best for us.
I find this a worthy statement, and one I can easily fall in behind. If I’d felt for a minute that we were being done to by the EU, that they were imposing laws & diktats on us that weren’t good for us and our country, I’d have voted Leave, too. If I’d read only The Sun, Daily Mail or Daily Express, I’d have felt we were being crushed under an iron boot as they criminally misrepresented the reality of what the EU did for us and how it worked.
The further nationalistic side is that it doesn’t matter what the laws are, it’s who makes them that matters. I conversed with a true-blue Tory about it. He isn’t thick, isn’t economically illiterate and is politically well-connected within the Conservatives, understanding far more than most what it’s like inside politics. He’d pick a Labour government raising taxes and expanding council house building over an EU bloc voting in privatisation and trades union curbs. There are Labour supporters in the local party who believe it is better to have a Tory government cutting spending than having the EU increase workers’ rights. It doesn’t matter what the laws are, it’s who makes them that’s important. I might think the sentiment is small, insular and one which closes more doors than it opens, but I have to appreciate the sentiment nonetheless: how can you argue with someone whose sense of nationhood trumps their own political, economic and lifestyle needs? These Leavers believe Britain is best.
Leave won because large parts of the media misrepresented the institution of the EU and our place within it; if you’re going to lose, what a terrible way to lose – and it lends weight to the belief that Leavers are thick. Remain lost because our population is patriotic and believes in our country; if you’re going to lose, it’s not a bad way to do so, wouldn’t you say?
Pride v Shame
After the result, I was ashamed of my country and how it had voted. One of the reasons was the confluence of racism and nationalism, seeing them as the same thing. I was wrong. I’m proud that so many Britons still believe that we are so strong, such a force, such a great place, that there should not even be a suggestion that others are forcing things on us because we know best.
What I have seen since from some Remainers has saddened me. In the immediate aftermath of the result, the number of people who began openly discussing emigration shocked me. 52% of the country disagrees with me so I must leave? These were the people talking 24hrs before about how Britain doesn’t quit.
More Nationalism not Less
Now we’re back to being a nation, we need more nationalism, not less. Remainers should be learning from Leavers on this. We knew what a force for good – good economics, good trade, good law, good culture, good influence – the EU was, but we never went out and sold it, never took them along with us, and never made others feel the pride (at least the positivity) we did in Europe. Now we’re a nation outside the EU, we’ve got to show the EU, the world and, most of all, ourselves how great Britain is, how we can come together and move forward.
Quitting your country because 52% don’t agree with you is, at best, hasty and, at worst, petulant. Britain deserves better than yet; we deserve better than that.
Believe in Britain
Over this course of blog posts, I’ll look a lot about who voted and why. The biggest reason was nationalism. One of the biggest bloc of voters was those on low or no pay. They’ve been screwed over by government after government – and their decision means they’re going to be screwed again, probably even more than if they’d voted Remain – but they didn’t run away, emigrate, move to a better life? Why? They have pride in our country and believe. Also, they couldn’t. Are we really going to run away because we, the clever, educated, rich, powerful, took our country to a place they didn’t want to go, ignoring them, forgetting about them, leaving them behind?
A post on social media – you know the one – compared the EU referendum to leaving a club without a plan of where next then not being allowed back in. I want you to imagine another scenario: you’re in a big group of people going to a club. The group gets split up with some separated from the rest. If you’re a close-knit group of friends looking out for each other, you go back and find them, showing them the way, bringing them along; if you’re not that close to the other group, if you didn’t invite them and you’re not bothered about them being there and you think, “Well, they’ll probably be fine” and go off to the club with your real mates.
I think we’ve seen that we’ve been ploughing on for too long taking too many people for granted and not listening to their concerns. Have we really been caring more about what German car manufacturers and French farmers think more than our own call-centre workers, retired North Yorkshire villagers and unemployed? Now they’ve disagreed with us, dragged us back, taken us away from what we thought was best for the whole country, isn’t it about time we started to talk to each other, find out how we can work together and, most of all, join together in a nationalistic fervour? It’s a big world out there and we’re just a small country with a massive history – let’s face it together.