Differently from other populist phenomena, Brexit is a facelesness fiasco


This is the last of our series of four articles we're dedicating to the consequences of Brexit. Brexit will impact philanthropy, the European integration process, and the lives of hundreds of millions of people. This is why we decided to publish these articles on Kinder World. You can read the other articles here.

In some ways, Brexit is only a shade of a wider wave of populism; from Trump’s America to Bolsanaro’s Brazil to the growth of Islamophobia and nationalism in Hungary and Poland to the resurgence of Hindu nationalism in Modi’s India. Increasingly, xenophobic, racist and exceptionalist discourse is becoming normalized, as the Overton Window (i.e. what are considered ‘normal’ and ‘taboo’ subjects) continues to shift to the right.

However, while much of the world lurches to the right with identifiable populist demagogues, Brexit is perhaps unique in its facelessness. Yes, you can identify Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and others as its architects and cheerleaders, but Brexit is a process that has since enveloped the entire British political system. It emboldens is most fervent followers, and eclipses its detractors into political indecisiveness and resultant electoral punishment. Perhaps it is merely the latest outlet of an age-old historical trend for the anger caused by economic and social hardship to be misdirected at scapegoats.

A decade of austerity has in the UK has seen the rise of foodbanks, chronic underfunding of vital public services, and the reemergence of levels of inequality not seen since the Victorian era. These very real problems were expertly distilled to simultaneously blame the ‘Breaking-Point’ level of immigration on the one hand, and the ‘unelected bureaucrats’ of Brussels on the other. Sure, it may be the UK government that’s promoting austerity, but let’s focus on the EU infringing on our right to blue passport (which it didn’t).

The current trajectory of Brexit is to storm out of the EU rather than try to progressively reform it from within.  It is the equivalent of complaining about the course of a boat by jumping into a rubber dingy with a knife.

It is the very nature of democracy that people get to change their minds. The realities of Brexit, unknown in 2016, are now strikingly clear. A unilateral reversal of Brexit would be a bold step but would never escape accusations of being undemocratic. A confirmatory people’s vote with a remain option is the only viable way out of this mess. With any luck, the populism of this century will be rejected before it drags us to repeat the mistakes of the last.

About the author: Samuel John recently graduated with an MSc in international development studies. Formerly a research intern with Kinder, he is now working as an English teacher in Japan; and continues to write the occasional article for Kinder World

Credit header image: Kalsom Cheman/Wikipedia

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