Britain’s vote to leave the EU wasn’t an expansion of rights or a declaration of freedom from tyrannical rulers. It was a fearful expression of the rising tide of nationalism that is currently permeating many European countries and America. All the xenophobic right wing parties have expressed their enthusiasm for the Brexit, which is going to give them more push. Brexit comes after the Austrian elections, where the right wing lost for few votes. If elections were held today in the Netherlands, its xenophobic party would be the largest. And Donald Trump has expressed his enthusiasm for the Brexit.
Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, one of the most extreme movements in Europe, applauded “the brave decision of the British people.”
Marine Le Pen, head of France’s far-right National Front party, described the vote as a “victory for freedom.”
Geert Wilders, the leader of the Netherlands’ far-right Party for Freedom, congratulated Britain and Nigel Farage, the head of the far-right U.K. Independence Party, which helped lead the Brexit campaign.
In Denmark, the far-right Danish People’s Party similarly called for its own referendum. -A spokesperson for the anti-immigrant party congratulated Britons for their “brave” and “correct choice.”
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right Lega Nord party, wrote, “Hurrah for the courage of free citizens!” “Now it’s our turn”
There are 3 million EU migrant workers in the UK, many of them working in manufacturing, wholesale and retail, and hospitality. Hospitality is the fourth biggest employer in the UK, with a workforce of 4.4millon - 70% of whom are migrant workers. It is also the most precarious and un-unionised with just 3.6% belonging to a union. Hotel housekeeping departments are mainly staffed by Eastern European women workers. Why should we care what happens to 'them'? Because what happens to them, in terms of access to employment rights and agency to challenge exploitation, will happen to us. Anti-immigrant fervour paved the way for the introduction of NHS fees for migrants through the Immigration Act 2014. Under tabloid-stoked banners of ending 'health tourism', the NHS now has a legal and administrative framework for a charging health care system. You don't need to be a genius to work out who else this will be rolled out to – everyone.
So when we 'take our country back', are we going to take our workplaces back? Control over our own labour back? No one is talking about that. Why would the Tories abandon their trajectory of slashing and burning union rights, passing 11 restrictive acts between 1980 and 1996 and continuing with the strike-banning Trade Union Act this year? The capacity we need to ‘take back control’ is over our own labour, conditions and economic organisation.
When migrant workers are the pawn in this game of EU and domestic class control, voting for a move which will exclude them, and normalise restrictions on their rights, will not encourage their participation in a political process which needs to include them as a part of the whole UK working class. Anti-immigration only resonates with certain parts of that class - those with employment, language and immigration status advantages.
Myths and misinformation have been packaged in a way that both dehumanises the vulnerable migrants and thwarts solidarity from fellow-workers who have also suffered from the same unequal distribution of global wealth that drives much migration.
Migration policy is already pretty dire. The Immigration Act of 2014 and 2016 and its various amendments has kick-started the process of criminalisation movement and policing people who appear ‘other’. British people earning below a certain income already face restrictions on who bringing foreign spouses to live with them here in the UK. Not to talk of destitution and incarceration of hundreds of refused asylum seekers and migrants. And even before Brexit, social welfare lawyers report a rising number of destitute Eastern Europeans with various restrictions on their access to benefits and housing.
One of the few positives from the Brexit result is that there is now a growing chorus on the fact that globalisation has not kept its promises - wealth for everybody. On the contrary, it has created a dramatic social inequality, with few people having the bulk of national wealth, and many left out. It seems that those supporting Remain concentrated too much on attacking Brexit and failed to emphasise the title of the Socialist Party statement that "The problem is not the EU .. it's capitalism" and so neglected to address and challenge the thinking of workers in Leave areas that the EU was the cause of the problems they faced.
As Ricky Gervais insightfully commented:
"Joking aside, Brexit won't make any difference. The rich will still be rich, the poor will still be poor, and we'll still blame foreigners."