Brexit seems to be, by most standards, simply another representation of the global phenomenon of right-win, populist politics which has been sweeping the planet in the latter half of the 2010s. First Brexit, then Trump, followed by Bolsonaro and, as if to act as some conclusive, widespread evidence, the rise of the far-right in the 2019 European Elections, just a week ago. In that respect, it’s nothing special, simply an expected reflection of our American and European counterparts, not bucking the trend, moreover following it unquestioningly. I doubt this, though; I, like many others, doubt this. Things don’t happen without a reason, and there was surely some catalyst behind what some describe as this act of ‘social and economic suicide’ in what was one of the greatest societies and economies in the world. I don’t fear that this title will recede; I fear that it already has.
By the beginning of 2016, the year of the UK’s referendum concerning membership of the European Union, austerity was well into its fifth year. Everyday British families were struggling, with some reports indicating a “heat or eat” culture, in which families had to choose between food and fuel, because obtaining both was no longer financially viable. The Conservative government made cuts wherever possible: to the NHS, to the education system, to public services, to benefits, until there were no more cuts to be made. And, at the height of it all, David Cameron, returning from Brussels, found a way to pin the blame on anyone but himself. Out of nowhere, it was the fault of the European Union — those bureaucrats in Brussels, they were the troublemakers here, not the UK government — the trusty toffs at the top. Playing on the stereotypical British patriotism, he created a divided nation, half who supported him, half who did not, and yet none who pointed the finger at him over austerity — there was a new person to blame now, and Cameron, for all his faults, admittedly did an excellent job at ensuring it wasn’t going to be him.
Three years later, and the division wages on, a country divided and restless, neither sideable to compromise on such an enormous fundamental element of our identity. Suggestion after suggestion: “there should have been a margin by which one campaign had to win”; “there should have been more fact-checking during the run-up to the referendum”; “there should have been more public education about the EU”. All very well now, three years into what appears to be an unresolvable national crisis which with each day deteriorates the reputation of our country, now an unrecognisable from its former state. And yet, blaming Brexit is to the answer — not in its entirety, at any rate. People were angry and desperate, first at the government and then, once given a new enemy, at the EU. Solving the Brexit crisis — however impossible that seems — will not subdue the anger which existed before. Austerity may be over — not that you’d know it if you watched this week’s ‘Care in Crisis’ episode of Panorama –, and families across the country, young and old, are struggling to survive. To truly solve Brexit, we have to tackle the underlying issues which caused 52% of the country to vote for it.
Inequality, councils and — let’s be honest — governments who simply aren’t listening, a lack of public spending for the services which need it the most. These are all causes of one of Britain’s biggest political movements in the last fifty years, and The Green Party are the only ones who seem to realise that, to solve Brexit, we have to solve its causes. Rather than being hypocritically bureaucratic, Green councillors are on the streets, talking to constituents and, most importantly, they are listening and acting. This is what will solve Brexit: not a group of Eton-educated, out-of-touch rich men, ignoring the huge areas of the country which, frankly, they don’t want to hear; it’s real people, who work with the people of this country to inspire and create change when and where it matters.
In some ways, Brexit, if resolved, could be the political movement Britain needed — a blessing, if you will. The British public have become increasingly disengaged in politics, with power becoming more and more limited, held by the most disconnected, selfish individuals in our society. Perhaps, this wave of people politics, with individuals feeling as if their voices are heard, will reignite a flame within the hearts and minds of Brits, ensuring that the isolation of the political sphere which ultimately caused this chaos is never allowed to happen again. Politics is for and about the people, and should be managed in a fashion which reflects this, at every level. Is Brexit the catastrophe we needed — nay, deserved — to remind us of this?