“We did it”. Nigel Farage and his far-right and anti-EU party, United Kingdom Independence Party, celebrated the ‘leave’ result on the referendum the day after the 23 of June 2016. With a surprisingly 51,9 percent of the British population voted leave, Brexit became a reality. The referendum divided the country, as the never used before article 50, in the EU treaty, for leaving the union was activated.

Three main reasons seem to have been influential on the ‘leave’ vote; the economy, the sovereignty, and a showdown with the political elite. The anti-political elitism seems to have been especially decisive for the voters’ decision across the political spectrum, as a protest to the establishment in London and Brussel.

The British world view has traditionally been centered on three entities: The empire, the special relationship with the US and Europe. Often in that order. Many Britons on the far-right longs to the glory of the imperial past and still identify the UK as a world power, which can be compared to the American counterpart, the alt-right movement. Thus, they believe that the UK has been constrained by the EU bureaucracy and centralism.

The UK has historically had an awkward relationship with the EU, since UK’s membership in 1973. Politicians have often emphasized the economic gains of being part of the single market but showed contempt with the precedence EU law has on the UK juridical system. Especially the freedom of movement for EU workers, has been a pain in the back for the right-wing media. Headlines such as “immigrants bring more crime”, “Britain must ban migrants” and “Slash benefits for EU migrants” have been common in tabloids, such as the Daily Express and the Daily Mail.

The battle against the EU galvanized Nigel Farage and UKIP. Despite only having a single seat in the national Parliament, they gained the most votes in the 2014 European Parliament elections, with almost 27 percent of the votes. UKIP has been a deciding factor for the ‘leave’ result, backed by the anti-EU media. However, UKIP has lost its impact on British politics after the referendum. Thus, has the far-right movement outplayed its own role after the referendum?

The consequences of Brexit are difficult to predict, but economic forecasts have indicated a decline in the economic growth, even resulting in recession, a brain drain, lower living standards and an exodus of international financial corporations. Despite the predicted consequences the political establishment is still inclined to fulfill Brexit and seems to be backed by the British voters. Why?

Sources

Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU
Article, Alex Hunt & Brian Wheeler, BBC News, July 2018

The day after: scenarios and regrets after the Brexit referendum – How Brexit of Bremain will affect Britain and its role in Europe.
Article, Fabrizio Tassinari & Jon Worth, DIIS, June 2016

Why did Britain vote to leave the EU?
Article, Timothy B. Lee, Vox. June 2016

Brexit: People voted to leave the Eu because they feared immigration, major survey finds
Article. May Bulman, independent, June 2017

Brexit and Britain’s delusions of empire
Article, Ishaan Tharoor, The Washington Post, March 2017
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Theresa May’s Empire of the Mind
Article, Tom Whyman, The New York Times, February 2017

Britain and the EU: A long and rocky relationship
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EU referendum: Voters face ‘lies’ and ‘scaremongering’
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