Reprinted from Dispatches From The Edge
In the end, the Brexit -- the vote on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union (EU) or be the first in the 29-member trade group to bail out -- was a close fought matter, but for all the sturm und drang about a pivotal moment for the EU, the June 23 referendum that saw the Brexit pass was a very British affair.
While the European Union is clearly in a crisis -- countries weighed down with unpayable debt, economies virtually dead in the water, double digit unemployment, and a rising chorus of opposition to the austerity policies of the EU authorities in Brussels -- those were not the issues that brought the British people to the polls.
Indeed, the whole affair started as an entirely homegrown matter, an internal split in the ruling Conservative Party. Back in 2013, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron cut a deal with the euro skeptic part of his party that if they would close ranks until after the 2015 general election, he would hold a referendum on the EU.
At the time, Cameron was also looking over his shoulder at the rise of the extreme right wing, racist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which had begun using anti-immigrant issues to poach Conservatives. It is likely that Cameron never really intended to follow through on the 2013 pledge, but once he let slip the dogs of war he had little control over the havoc that followed.
When the Conservatives defeated the Labour Party last year, the "out" faction demanded their due, and what emerged was a deeply disturbing campaign that focused on race, religion and "sovereignty," the latter a code-word for a particularly nasty brand of nationalism that is on the rise all over Europe.
Brexiters conjured up hordes of Turks pouring into Britain, even though Turkey is not a EU member -- or likely to become one. In any case, the UK is not part of the Schengen countries, those members of the EU that allow visa less travel.
"Vote Leave" ran posters depicting crowds of Syrians and endless ads on Turkish birthrates. "None of this needs decoding," wrote Philip Stephens of the Financial Times, "The dog whistle has made way for the Klaxon. EU membership talks with Turkey, we are to understand, will soon see Britain overrun by millions of (Muslim) Turks -- most of them thugs or welfare scroungers."
Last year Britain did process some 330,000 immigrants, but the overwhelming majority of them hailed from Spain, Poland, the Baltic countries, and Greece. The UK has accepted very few Syrian refugees and Turks, certainly not enough to "overrun" the place.