What makes Brexit “red, white and blue”?


Just when we thought ’s rhetoric could not become more vague or futile, she has fathomed the phrase “red, white and blue Brexit”. The remark was made during May’s visit to the Gulf and is a reaction to talk of a “grey Brexit”. This soundbite offers little to no insight into the deal the Prime Minister attempts to strike with the EU. However, it does raise the issue of patriotism and whether Brexit was in fact a patriotic act. It was Nigel Farage who hailed Britons “fiercely patriotic” for voting to leave the European Union.

The whole issue is, in my opinion, underpinned by the issue of immigration. Voters believed that by voting to leave they could end the open door migration which they think is harming British values and weakening British identity.

The demographic that voted Brexit tended to be older, white voters. They were presented with the offer of “taking back control”, whether that be reclaiming sovereignty from the European parliament or limiting the free movement of people.

But I question whether the leave voter in Sunderland is concerned about the power of Westminster politicians and the judiciary in relation to Brussels. It is the increasing diversity across Britain’s towns and cities that Brexit voters feared.

Brexit cannot be interpreted as vaguely patriotic, due to my belief of what British values are: openness, tolerance and individual freedom. These for me are what underpins British identity. Increasing hate crime towards those who are not British is not patriotic in any sense of the word, in fact I believe it is a rejection of what it truly means to be British.

In an increasingly globalised and integrated world national identities are bound to diminish and it would be naive to think that leaving the EU will change this. And it’s for this reason that I continue to struggle with May’s idea of a “red, white and blue Brexit”.

I don’t believe that there’s anything vaguely British about giving up on the EU, Amber Rudd forcing firms to list foreign workers, a percentage record rise in hate crimes, or the government’s refusal to take a reasonable number of refugees. The idea of “taking back control” may seem on the surface deeply patriotic but in fact  this blurred sense of patriotism has resulted in Britain taking significant ideological steps back rather than forward.

Photograph: Garry Knight via Flickr

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