Brexit fever got to a dramatic head last Saturday when MPs, in a knife edge tug of war, voted to have it extended. On that day, the global space and the social media were colonised by the ferment of Brexit and what it portends for the free world. The Oliver Letwin’s amendment, which puts a brake on Brexit, was passed by 322 votes to 306. However, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in a defiant mood, insisted he would not negotiate a delay with the European Union and that the law does not compel him to do so.
Jeremy Corbyn, brimming with anger, told Johnson that he must comply with the law while the Scottish National Party leader, Ian Blackford, warned that the Prime Minister may end up in court if he refused to delay Brexit.
For the past three years the British establishment had been embroiled in fudging, befuddlement, semanticism, disunity, indecision and paralysing inaction. Analysts ranging from the crude to the sublime have been throwing all sorts of ideas: myopic, non-myopic, liberal, illiberal, refined, repugnant, rational and irrational on the double “wahala” ahead for United Kingdom and its troubling Achilles heels, called Brexit. The handwriting on the world stage is daily darkened by the terror of Brexit and how it could reconfigure the entire God’s own universe and the eventual banalisation of political, social, economic and cultural discourse especially for us black Brits.
Brexit is impulsive. It is the scheduled withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. Following a June 2016 referendum, in which 51.9 per cent of participating voters voted to leave, the UK government formally announced the country’s withdrawal in March 2017, starting a two-year process that was due to conclude with the UK withdrawing on 29 March 2019.
As the UK parliament thrice voted against the negotiated withdrawal agreement, that deadline has been extended twice, and is currently October 31, 2019. Another extension is likely with the super Saturday defeat of the government. Brexit has morphed into a kind of hand propelled grenade lobbed to disinter thousand years of proud English history and give insouciant victory to the alt-right elements in British society who are afraid of being swarmed by foreigners, especially those from the Mediterranean and African continents. These racist cowards are the people who lined behind Nick Farage, to cause a seismic shift in the multicultural foundation, of otherwise, a proud nation, which had perfected the art of living shoulder to shoulder with people from other nations.
Suddenly, we woke up one Thursday on June 23, 2016 and realised that our universe has lost a bride, a jewel, a proud and valiant nation to a Manichean dualism of fear and glory. The aftershocks of the referendum has left United Kingdom bemoaning its action and the loss of two Prime Ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May. The new times pose a different challenge for the British people especially those from outside the EU. Already, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister has promised to reduce immigration to the country in order to recapture the lost ground to anti-immigration groups. He wants to borrow a leaf from Australia’s racist-driven points system. A points system is a way of selecting labour migrants based on their characteristics, such as their educational qualifications, language proficiency, work experience and occupation. Points systems are generally used to select migrants for economic purposes, not for family migrants, refugees or international students.
Inclusion, cohesion, one nation under God and multiculturalism have become bywords laden with romance with the brown and dark skin people of the world. United Kingdom had always lived with the lumber of can-go-it-alone, self-confidence and self-justification for aloofness in a continent of many nations. And Brexit has just provided the necessary justifications to stoke the embers of fear, bias, racial disharmony among the generally accepting Brits. With Boris Johnson, old and discredited racial attitude will now return to respectability in the form of police oppression of black people, racial profiling, inequality, oppression and loathing of foreigners.
Britain has entered a politically surreal times and the future impact of Brexit on my citizenship has cast a pall of foreboding and despair on my naturalisation as a British citizen. As a black British, the commonest good I have enjoyed is the freedom to roam the savannah of Europe from Calais to the outer fringe of Switzerland with family and friends on holiday rendezvous, shopping spree and the curiosity to be familiar with my inherited continent. What has sustained this delight is the value attached to travel and holidays by my host which is sadly lacking in my culture in Nigeria. In Nigeria, we hardly leave our turf. A man may be born in Lagos and never been to Calabar either on a visit or as a tourist. But my European exposure changed that for good. I am at home in France, Belgium, Netherland and Germany with my free entry British passport.
Now that Brexit is here and other European countries are sounding bullish against the arrogance of we Brits to dare sever link with our cousins, what then is the repercussion for black British?
Are we going to slide from being seen as second class citizens of Europe to further down the greasy pole of race and identity hierarchy? Are there going to be a continuation of tension, intolerance and anti-black attitude that had blackened the European heart for centuries or not? Are we still going to be accepted as black European in the wake of Brexit? Few of us with jobs in Europe are now living with the fear of Brexit as a harbinger of unforeseen nightmare, disaster and the death of cross border pollination of ideas, experience, learning and social enrichment.
As a black British, would the exit of British from Europe encourage the old exaggerated clichés about black crime, poverty and aggressive attitude? Would our acrimonious exit encourage the same demeaning stereotypes and the same justification for unequal access to the justice system? Would Brexit accommodates black Brits and arrest antagonistic debate of our presence in European soil? Already, there are insinuations that jobs would emasculate for British citizens because of our exit from Europe. Would the political, social, economic and cultural impact of Brexit have far more damaging repercussions on blacks than white?
My British citizenship has over the years given me a kind of solidarity, liberty and equality especially among liberal and foreigner-cuddling white British people who have come to accept my black face with love, warmth and respect. Am I now threatened with Brexit and its unintended racial revisionism? Would my passionate commitment to free movement across Europe now be curtailed due to Brexit? Would I queue for visa to visit a friend in Berlin, Paris and Brussels? Is there any way to determine black voting pattern in the last referendum? Did we actually vote to exit from Europe or we voted to remain? If we voted to remain, why should we be the helpless ‘citizens’ that will suffer in terms of loss of jobs, opportunities, racial disharmony and social tension?
Is my British citizenship still worth it after Brexit? Is Brexit the destroyer of an inclusive Europe that had been a magnet of friendship, learning, hope, joy, peace and prosperity for its people? What next as a black British after my adopted nation has opted to go it alone in a world that had been soldered for long by globalisation?
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