As the EU referendum approaches, the debate on Brexit has taken an ugly turn. With the murder of the MP and pro-EU campaigner Jo Cox by Thomas Mair, a man most likely radicalised by the hyperbolic headlines of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express, and Nigel Farage demonstrating a keen understanding of Mein Kampf, it remains unclear what the British electorate will actually decide.
However, the frightening aspect of the debate is not whether Britain will leave the EU. But rather the basis upon which lies have been propagated and passed off as ‘fact’ by the Leave campaign that has tapped into the racist, nationalist sentiment that has been fuelled by the anti-immigration rhetoric.
From the Randy Marsh-esque claim of “they are taking our jobs”, to “they are stealing our benefits”, the scaremongering from the Leave campaign as they take advantage of fears among those struggling to make ends meet has been astonishing.
Boris Johnson claimed that the UK pays £350 million a week to the EU. This is simply false. The number is closer to 250 million and that is not deducting the money that the UK receives from the EU. Nigel Farage has described the UK being hampered and limited by regulation. Yet how can the protection of Human Rights, and the Equality Act, both of which were implemented following EU Directives, be considered ‘hampering’ in an age where the NSA and GCHQ exist? The sheer scale of false information is such that the campaign strategy resonates with Hitler’s principle that:
‘If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.’
And the cruel and dark irony is that the very people playing on these fears are those who promote, defend and represent the very people whose economic greed, tax avoidance and Panama accounts, continue to compound their problems.
Britain’s economic problems are not because of immigration and this has been reiterated countless times by experts across the spectrum. In 2008, the world was in uproar at the bankers whose reckless investing practices brought about a global economic downturn. Yet somehow, despite these very people continuing to receive lucrative bonuses, that debate has been altered and we are now in a time whereby history is being rewritten by the Leave campaign that somehow immigrants and migrants are at the heart of the problem.
This, at a time when in 2014 five major banks paid little or no corporation tax, and the government takes only 3% tax from Google, beggars belief and can only be described as one of the great propaganda coups of our time.
And let’s be honest, it was never intended that the EU referendum should become a fierce discussion on Britain’s role in the world. The referendum was announced because Cameron sought to fend off competition from UKIP in the general elections. He feared that UKIP’s message resonated with euro-sceptics in his Conservative base and believed that by promising a referendum, he could prevent electoral losses and prevent a revolt. When he saw that it was Labour who suffered from the UKIP vote, he realised that he had made a very bad tactical error.
On the economic front, the vast majority of experts that Michael Gove has “had enough [of]”, state that there is little indication in the academic and financial world to suggest that we would do any better outside the EU. So the Leave economic argument is moot and no Leave voter can claim, hand on heart, that they are voting for the country’s economic interests based on sound and solid advice.
The lack of substance and well-grounded facts is reflected in the language used in the Brexit argument: ‘take back our borders’, ‘control’, ‘our country’, ‘our Britain’, a sense of propriety that reeks of xenophobic nationalism. There is no economic plan. Only uncertainty. There is no solution. Only a leap in the dark. There is no substance. Only hollow trumpeting of past glories of a bygone era.
The debate is, at its very core, a platform to scapegoat migrants and immigrants by exuding a false sense of sovereignty and creating a sense of ‘Britain is Great’, an empty and hollow slogan built on a fallacy that somehow the nation is being conquered and overrun by foreigners threatening the very existence of the ‘Englishman’. It is an expression of anger and frustration at Osborne’s austerity measures but directed at the wrong target. It is an expression of despair at being unable to make ends meet and having the Daily Express explain that it is because of the Arab or Pole who lives down the road.
For Cameron, this debate is about solving the mess from his error in judgement, protecting George Osborne’s bid for the leadership by attributing economic success of any sort to his austerity project and not Brexit, and Boris Johnson’s political maneuvering to outdo the former two and set himself up as the next Conservative leader.
In the words of Malcolm X, played by Denzel Washington in the movie ‘Malcolm X’:
You’ve been had! Bamboozled! Hoodwinked! Run amok!’