Brexit has brought back fears of Modi’s 2014 triumph

BJP came to power riding on the crest of a pro-Hindu wave, and resurgence of nationalist sentiment, mixed with anti-immigrant rhetoric.

It seems that Brexit has unleashed a monster. And that monster’s name is national sovereignty. There was the time after World War II that six European countries joined hands politically and economically to prevent invasions from neighbouring countries, and broker peace through trade.

After a long period of economic cooperation, and the free movement of people, goods and services across borders, the cracks have begun to show. It has been no more than 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but today the desire for borders seems to have gained new currency. In fact, we are witnessing a retreat into and a resurgent drivefor maintaining national borders.

 Why Brexit happened is probably a question for the history books to answer. The world (which has often only meant the West) will be grappling with too many chaotic outcomes in the foreseeable future to map the underlying rationale for voting “Leave”.

Whether it was primarily identity politics, immigration fears, increasing disillusionment with the abstract idea of a Union where material profit trumps moral considerations, the clash of ideologies between different generations of British voters, or a nation divided along class lines, time will tell.

Brexit has not only shocked the world (and David Cameron, who resigned after the referendum went against the outcome he had imagined), but also the financial markets. The pound has taken a bad, bad pounding.

But let us forget, for a second, what foreign investors are thinking. Let us forget about the all too real fears of a possible Brexit-induced recession, the anxiety of EU citizens living, loving and working in the UK, whose livelihoods lie at the mercy of divorce negotiations which will determine whether they will be deported, and the bubbling anger of the British youth who’ve just been denied the right to live, love and work in 27 European countries.

About the political crisis that Britain’s new prime minister will face with regard to implementing Article 50, which lists the rules to be followed by any member country leaving the EU; the impending negotiations over free movement, trade regulations and tariffs; how to justify so many lost opportunities; Euroscepticism and the possibilities of other referendums; the need to make EU more relevant and cohesive in terms of job markets.

What Brexit has driven me to think about is questions of democracy. Of emotion trumping logic. The Leave voters belonged to an older age demographic, and an article in The Guardian states that many of them had not received a formal education, while the younger, college-going population mainly voted Remain.

There’s no surprise there. For millions of young Britons, Brexit means a cataclysmic loss of opportunities.

Some columnists are likening Brexit to a “working-class revolt”. Pro-Brexit ministers used rhetoric like their constituents complaining about not hearing English spoken while walking down the street, and leaders of parties like UKIP capitalised on fears of immigrants taking away their jobs, of immigrants committing crimes, using government services and changing the socio-cultural and emotional landscape of the nation.

UKIP leader and demagogue Nigel Farage even declared June 23 as “Independence Day” for Britain! The irony of this, I’m sure, is not lost on many.

The British first tried to impose their language, law and values through annexation, while draining their colonies of capital and wealth to supplement their own economy and fund wars.

For a race that has been our political masters and plundered our economic interests for close to two centuries, their exit seems to have thrown concerns of commerce, trade and markets to the winds.

Worse, this urgency seems precipitated by a right-wing sentiment that seems to be increasingly gaining valence in different parts of the world.

This article by Piya Srinivasan first appeared here.

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