ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From Great Britain to Little England, via Brexit

The Brexit referendum was called effectively to settle an inner-party struggle within the conservative Tory party. The struggle in the Tory party signifies deep divisions within the ruling elite and the state. The Brexit vote and the victory of the nationalist strand in Toryism present the spectre of disintegration of the United Kingdom.

This article was earlier posted in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website.

“Goebbels must be laughing in his grave,” I texted on the morning of 24 June 2016 as I woke to news of Brexit victory. The “leave” and the “remain” camps, the pundits, politicians and public woke up shocked and stunned. The leave camp did not expect to win, and the remain camp did not expect to lose. All sides lied, some more than others. Indeed the campaign was a competition on misinformation. Everyone knew that all sides were lying.

The remain side unleashed “Demon Fear” and the leave side let loose “Demon Racial Bigotry.” For the leave side, immigration and the National Health Service (NHS) were pivotal issues, their arguments cloaked in jingoistic nationalism. The immigrants were somehow responsible for Little England’s problems, including the crisis in the NHS. The remain camp chanted the same mantra: market access, investments, and growth that came with European Union (EU) membership would fix the problems that people of the United Kingdom (UK) have reeled under for four decades since Margaret Thatcher began rolling back the state, privatising Britain and liberalising the markets. Wealth polarisation, regional disparities, falling wages and unravelling health, education and social services across England make London feel and look like a different country. In the end those who lied best, unleashed the worst demons, won.

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