The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union by a margin of 52% to 48% – early analyses seem to suggest that many Muslim communities have also supported Brexit. This decision has sent shock waves across the world, and represents a seismic shift in our relationship with the rest of the EU and the world.
Whilst exaggerations have been present on both sides, the Leave campaign has promoted scaremongering about minority groups and immigrants, as well as lies about Turkey joining the EU and Turkish Muslims swarming the UK. The serious deficiencies in the way the campaigns have been run, demonstrate the worst of British politics and in many ways far exceeds the dog-whistle politics conducted in the London Mayoral election.
The markets have reacted to the shock result with a major slump, the likes of which have not been seen for decades, and the economic impact is only starting to become clear with major companies announcing job losses in the UK.
With this background, we see a divided nation – where London, Scotland and Northern Ireland strongly supported Remain whilst most other major population centres, including Wales, supporting Brexit.
All the major political parties must look inward to understand why people voted against the views of the experts and their party leaders, and on the same side as UKIP, Britain First, the BNP and the EDL. Far-right groups from the National Front in France to Golden Dawn in Greece have lauded the result.
The repercussions of this vote have only just started, with the resignation of Prime Minister, David Cameron and a vote of no confidence in Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The next few months may also see a new Scottish referendum, the repealing of the Human Rights Act and a huge uncertainty in the economy.
Now is the time to heal the divisions created by a nation split down the middle, and the underlying issues related to immigration cannot be left to fester and manifest themselves in xenophobia, racism and violence.
We must stand up and be counted to ensure that the vote is not seen as a victory for the far-right. Repressive policies that undermine our civil liberties or those that demonises minorities in the UK cannot be allowed to pass. We will be watching.