Diversity, openness, or vilifying migrants: which way UK?

Diversity, openness to migrants
Image by Zachtleben Fotografie from Pixabay

I was lucky enough to work at the 2012 London Olympics representing the then Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I was really proud of being part of this momentous event which for me displayed what made me choose the UK as my home: diversity and openness to other cultures which co-existed relatively peacefully beside each other.

Little did I realise how quickly that world would change. Populist propaganda in preparation for the Referendum by the Leave campaign and most of the mainstream media turned people against each other. Blatant lies and myths about the EU were left unchallenged by mainstream media. Tabloids headlines played to the nationalistic tune of the Leave campaign. 

Migrants who are our neighbours, colleagues and friends were vilified and blamed for issues which in reality were due to government policies. Racist, arrogant, and nationalistic voices were and still are allowed to incite hatred. 

Refugees, migrants, and immigrants

Presently, the vilification and fear of migrants goes as far as wanting to prevent the RNLI from taking to water to save people struggling in dangerous seas. Many see refugees as an invading army, instead of desperate people fleeing death, torture or starvation.

This at a time when we need workers to drive lorries, save people’s lives as NHS staff, and care for our elderly. We should be welcoming migrants with open arms, like the UK did when I was one of the refugees from USSR rule.

Barbed wire and camera at border
Barbed wire and camera at border. Image 652234 from Pixabay

People who highlighted and warned of the dangers of this trend of hate and division, which reminds me of 1930’s fascism, were attacked and some even needed protection against death threats.

This development happened parallel to similar trends in Orbán’s Hungary and Trump’s US. The latter’s defeat by President Biden raises hope for America. Steve Bannon facing a conviction is one sign that far right conspiracies are being revealed and perpetrators face prosecution.

What about the United Kingdom? Are we changed forever?

Sadly, our political system of First Past The Post and the large majority this current Conservative government was able to secure in 2019 make an imminent change in the UK unlikely. 

Blatant corruption was uncovered by Caroline Cadwalladr and reported in The Observer and by Peter Jukes, editor of Byline Times amongst other media. Their revelations should have led to government ministers’ and especially the PM’s resignation. Other countries like Austria don’t allow such corruption to continue. Their Head of State Kurz resigned and currently awaits the consequences of his actions. 

Our PM and the UK government destroys our democracy in front of our eyes and apart from a few pro-EU and anti-fascist, anti-racism groups, nobody seems to make an uproar. In fact, the Commons has passed a Bill which will make protests illegal.

The newest attempt at hiding how disastrous Brexit really is for Britain, is the ban on the word itself being used by civil servants. Brexit has happened, we know. However, its impact on dealings with Europe will only become apparent this year, when some of the deferred negotiated arrangements will come into effect. 

Brexit or Covid to blame for UK’s problems?

The pandemic has damaged the global economy and enabled the UK government to blame it for some of the harm which in reality is due to the UK leaving the EU. It was also an opportunity for cronyism and corruption on an immense scale. Jolyon Maughan QC has taken the government to court about cronyism and corruption.

It’s ordinary citizens who want justice done that fund the Good Law Project. The government is using taxpayers’ money to defend itself. The court judged that the government acted illegally in their PPE procurement from their donors and friends. Will they face consequences? 

Some people warn that the break up of the UK itself could follow. How can Keir Starmer propose that we ‘make this work’? Our government erodes democracy and security, our protections and rights and our prestige on the world stage by stealth.

Is there anything that Brexit has changed for the better?

A Brexit dividend: Pro-EU friendships and the European Movement

For me, the only Brexit dividend is meeting wonderful pro-EU friends. Some I have met personally at marches and protests, and some I know only from social media. We are a community with a shared value system as Europeans. Groups support each other in times of personal tragedies and share intimate details of our lives.

We formed local and national groups and organised colourful protests and events. Ours is a shared vision: wanting to be part of the European Union. We believe in a world where European collaboration enables us to face global challenges and super powers in the future. We might disagree on the speed and the path leading us back to full membership of the EU, but we share a vision.

The UK has one of the largest pro-EU communities in Europe

Last year for the first time, I took part in a Zoom meeting of the National Council of the European Movement (EM). The growing membership and improved structure of the EM lifted my spirit. Seeing many of my friends and co-campaigners gave me hope. 

The EU is currently in the process of a large consultation involving all Europeans on the Future of Europe.

Generously, despite Brexit, the EU invites the UK to take part in the debate and contribute to the consultation. The UK government has not shown any interest. As if our little island was not part of the Continent of Europe. Is it a continent of its own?

The European flag with one star falling away
Picture by Delyth Jewell: Brexit, the Arts and Wales – Wales Arts Review

My hope is that even Eurosceptics in the UK with time come to realise that global challenges make it vital to work together with our closest neighbours and allies in Europe. Sooner rather than later. 

Can we “Make Brexit work”?

Starmer, the leader of the largest UK opposition party stated that he will “Make Brexit work”. This statement caused consternation amongst groups who are watching with little satisfaction that all the damage Remainers predicted Brexit would cause is becoming reality. 

In my view, making Brexit work is like replacing your ordinary tyres on your car with square ones. Your car will move but it will be a bumpy ride. People who voted to leave the European Union often accuse us pro-Europeans of whining as we do not ‘get behind’ Brexit.

Are we wrong? Should we try to make Brexit work with all its consequences?