By Ladi Fagbola
The political class are hoarse with their ‘Brexit’ screams; the benefits, consequences, ease or complexity of its execution and every other binary you could think of. And as usual, few words are speared about its effects on Black people.
I believe ‘Brexit’ will have a negative economic impact on the UK. As for how it will effect us as Black people specifically; let us have a look at Tory austerity as a reaction to the 2008 financial crisis. Black women and children were hit the hardest. Yet, the crisis and subsequent recession were a direct result of the financial sector and collusion with the political class. Every aspect of government assistance and delivery of services was negatively impacted; from underfunding schools in poor ethnic minority areas to the closing of our youth centres or perhaps the lack of appropriate funds. Oversight and regulations and their relation to the Grenfell tower massacre is an even better example.
As Philip Hammond already indicated, offices that deliver or subsidise services for the public are expected to create a ‘Brexit’ “shock absorber money pot”, from existing and significantly slashed budgets. So, even before ‘Brexit’ occurs on the 29th of March, it is already putting a squeeze on vulnerable communities like ours.
The consequences of ‘Brexit’ reaches outside the British Isles, it’s somewhat ironic that the first trade deals UK signed are with African countries. A brief reading of Britain’s history in Africa should give you an indication of what this future relationship will look like (see Wikipedia). Now, it’s easy to say these African countries will trade with the UK as equals, however this can easily be debunked by looking at May’s treatment of African migrants, refugees and expats, both as Home secretary and as prime minister. They’ve been treated with disdain; leading many to homelessness, even going as far to label some as “terrorists”. And let us not forget the Windrush scandal, which just highlights that Black bodies are treated as second class, as was illuminated in the work of Professor Kehinde Andrews. What we have come to expect is an intensification of the (neo)colonial relationship, exploitation, extraction, destruction of local markets and culture as we have seen repeatedly throughout British history.
The one that worries me the most is the nationalist, xenophobic and racist rhetoric that underline Brexit and the racist nostalgia it invokes. As wildly reported, hate crimes have significantly increased since the referendum. This is largely due to the unearthing, reinventing and reproduction of racist tropes that have now become mainstream. How this rhetoric will play out over the next 50 years is largely unknown, however we all know that the effects will be grim.
This rhetoric opens the flood gates to new and innovative ways Black oppression can be maintained. An example of which is the case of the 6-year-old UK born boy whose citizenship was rescinded. This should be taken as a stark warning of further oppression to come under the myth of safeguarding UK’s border and sovereignty.
For now, immigration control and austerity appear to be the primary tools, however, we can anticipate more. For example, labelling of individuals as traitors, saboteurs and ‘Europhiles’ are becoming regular slurs. These labels will easily be tagged to anyone whom the state or media deems unwelcome or a threat to the UK. It is easy to see ‘Brexit’ as the first step toward UK’s withdrawal from ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) and ECJ (European Court of Justice), institutions that produce some flimsy albeit notable rights and protections. Images of children in cages in the US might seem like a stretch but the possibilities are becoming more real with each passing ‘Brexit’ day.