The Coming Fight Over Brexit

Professor Jonathan Davies, director of CURA, offers his thoughts on Brexit.

After yesterday’s staggering Brexit vote, it is impossible to predict what lies ahead. It is clear, however, that responsibility lies at the feet of both the British and European elite. By a thousand cuts it has immiserated, marginalised, impoverished and fragmented working class communities, some of which voted by overwhelming majorities to leave the EU. It can be no surprise in these dire conditions that resentment is boiling across the continent. This vote is a seismic moment in the rolling crisis of Britain’s post-war economic and political system. It is a moment in the rolling crisis of Europe, where vast territories have been laid waste by waves of crisis and austerity.

For many people, the grinding realities of austerity and the lack of hope for the future manifest in the form of virulent anti-immigration sentiments. The politics of despair are rife. Fears have been successfully channelled by the ugly dog-whistle politics of the leave campaigns. This is extremely damaging, but there is nothing new about it. Provoking racism to deflect attention from their own actions has long been a tried and tested policy of right wing elites. And it can be a lot easier to blame other people at the bottom of the heap than to hold the powerful to account.

Yet nationalist resentment is not the only story. Many working class people reject racism – especially in London. The people of Spain and Greece show that a politics of hope is possible in their struggles against austerity, despite the awful conditions they face. Like it or not, the struggle ahead will be over the meaning of Brexit. This is a huge challenge for people who believe in solidarity, open borders, love the diversity immigration brings and reject the delusion that stopping immigration will mean more jobs for “British workers”. At its height in the early 2000s, the anti-globalisation movement rallied around the slogan “another world is possible”. Our common challenge is to find a way of making it happen.

 Jonathan Davies is Professor of Critical Policy Studies and Director of the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity at De Montfort Univiersity.

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