Friday, 22 December 2017

Beware the rise of nationalism

There is, of course, nothing wrong in being proud to be British. All Britons can be proud of their country. 

But today’s rhetoric – indeed the rhetoric of the past couple of years – goes beyond a pride in one’s country. 

There is something nasty lurking underneath the idea that Britain should ‘restore its national identity’ to allow Britain to become 'more British’ again after leaving the European Union.

These were the types of announcements made this week by Conservatives in support of their plan to re-introduce the old true-blue (really black) pure British passport after Brexit.

In announcing the new, post-Brexit British passport, Home Office minister, Brandon Lewis said:
“Leaving the EU gives us a unique opportunity to restore our national identity and forge a new path for ourselves in the world.”
But we never lost our national identity during the 40 or so years we’ve been a member of the European Union.

If becoming part of the EU means losing national identity, why aren’t the other 27 EU countries complaining?

Are the French less French, the Germans less German, the Polish less Polish because of the EU?


Countries applying to join the EU didn’t do so fearing the loss of their national identities and cultures; quite the opposite.

The motto of the European Union is “United in diversity” for a genuine reason. 

This motto signifies how European countries have come together, in the form of the EU, to work for peace and prosperity, while at the same time being enriched by the continent’s many different cultures, traditions and languages.

Britain, and Britons, have not become less British because of the EU. 

Saying that Britain lost its identity as a result of EU membership is just another Brexit lie to reinforce the case for Brexit; a case that is based on a mountain of lies. 

Just as it’s a lie that if we stayed a member of the EU, Britain could soon become consumed into an EU super state, and lose everything that’s British. 

There is no plan to turn the EU into a ‘super state’ or what’s referred to as a United States of Europe. No EU country is interested in the idea. 

And even if it was a proposal (which it isn’t) it would need the approval of all the Parliaments of every EU member state before it could go ahead.

Which means that, if the UK was to remain a member of the EU, we’d have a cast iron veto against such a proposal (a proposal that isn’t even on the table).

We used to be a more tolerant, gentle and welcoming country.

But now, Brexit is bringing out the worst in Britain.

Instead of regaining our national identity, Britain is losing it as a result of Brexit. In its place, we are turning into a nasty, self-centred, inward looking nation, driven by nationalism, jingoism, self-pride and xenophobia.

We should know from history where that can lead. 

One of the main reasons cited for the Brexit vote was a dislike of so many immigrants. 

Reports of hate crimes against migrants have soared since the Brexit vote, as if somehow the referendum result gave the country a licence to shun immigrants and to become ‘more British’.

Yet, without immigrants, there would be no British identity. 

Our country has become a great country because of immigrants. Indeed, we are a country of immigrants. 

Go back far enough, and we are all the sons and daughters of immigrants. 

There is no such thing as pure British. 

In the blood running through the veins of all of us is the DNA of multiple nationalities. We are all of foreign stock. 

Although Theresa May now says that without the three million EU migrants here, Britain would be poorer, that has not been the dominant theme of her and the Tory administration in recent years.

The rhetoric against migrants at the Tory Party conference immediately following the Brexit vote was truly appalling. 

The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, made the accusation – not based on any evidence – that foreign workers are “taking jobs British people could do”.

She said that companies which fail to hire British people could be “named and shamed” by being forced to disclose the proportion of their workforce which comes from abroad. 
Unfortunately, this was nothing new. 

In the Tory conference the year before the EU referendum, the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, made a similarly appalling anti-migrant speech.

She said then:
“Because when immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society.
"It’s difficult for schools and hospitals and core infrastructure like housing and transport to cope. 
"And we know that for people in low-paid jobs, wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether.”
At the time, even the Conservative supporting Daily Telegraph ran an opinion piece stating that Mrs May’s immigration speech was ‘dangerous and factually wrong.’ 

With great prescience, The Telegraph summarised Mrs May's speech of 2015 as saying:
‘Immigrants are stealing your job, making you poorer and ruining your country. Never mind the facts, just feel angry at foreigners. And make me Conservative leader.’
The Tory anti-foreign sentiment, falsely and maliciously wrapped up as a patriotic, nationalistic, ‘rule Britannia’ pride, led Britain directly onto the path to Brexit.

Yet, as The Telegraph pointed out in 2015 (but hasn’t since) – that sentiment is not based on facts.

For hundreds of years Britain has hugely benefited from foreigners.

Such as Sir Alec Issigonis, born in Asia Minor (now part of Turkey) to Greek and German parents, who designed the icon British motor car, The Mini. 

Such as Sir Michael Marks, the co-founder of Marks and Spencer, a Jewish refugee who was born in Słonim, then part of Russian Poland (now a town in Belarus). 

Such as script writer, Richard Curtis, CBE, creator of 'Four Weddings and a Funeral', who was born in New Zealand, and whose mother was Australian, and his father a Czech refugee.

Of course, these are among the migrants to Britain whose names are well-known. 
But today there are also other migrants here, working hard, contributing to our country, substantially increasing Treasury coffers, and helping to enrich our society economically and culturally.

However, beware. The new pro-British, anti-foreigner rhetoric is making many immigrants now living in Britain feel nervous.

And the rhetoric should make all good, upstanding Britons feel nervous too.

The shrill cries calling for Britain to become more British, and the downright lies that because of the EU we lost our British identity that must now be restored, are leading Britain in the wrong direction. 

This is no longer just about Brexit. This is about what kind of country Britain is to become.

Other articles by Jon Danzig:


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