Leaving the EU does not fix Britain’s most fundamental and pressing problems, but it is a sign of the times. I wholeheartedly sympathise with the millions of Remainers waking up and posting angrily on Facebook about the prospects for a future Britain. In the immediate aftermath, it seems that a pseudo-xenophobic campaign has been vindicated, that Little Englanders have reasserted national identity at the expense of the millions of immigrants who have been pivotal to this country’s success, that leaving the EU represents a manifestation of right-wing mania.
No doubt these are causes for pessimism, but the roots of Brexit go deeper.
To dismiss 17 million people as a bunch of xenophobes, and to call into question the very existence of democracy in this country, is both arrogant and exactly the sort of flippant political rhetoric which isolated the most vulnerable in our society in the first place.
Brexit represents a backlash against the status quo. Across the Western world, anti-establishment populism is on the rise. In America it has taken the form of Donald Trump, in Spain we have seen the monumental rise of Podemos with their anti-austerity platform, and in the UK it has been through Brexit. It is deeply saddening that anti-establishment zeal has been largely expressed in xenophobic terms by Vote Leave, but in the rubble of Brexit lies a mandate for change, and it is one that must be mobilised on the right terms.
Only a Labour government can deliver this change; emphasising a proud national identity yet pushing the argument that it is the Conservatives, not immigrants, which have put the pressure on public services. We must organise to challenge the abhorrent vitriol of Farage and Johnson and put forward a platform for Britain which can once more reconnect with those disillusioned with politics, and pummelled by the excesses of Tory austerity over the last decade.
The EU has made important steps in the promotion of a green agenda and in the limited protection of workers’ rights. But it has not effectively curbed the damaging impacts of austerity imposed by dogmatic Conservatives; only a Labour government can guarantee that.
Moving forward, we must dust ourselves off after a polarising campaign and mobilise around the values that matter; with the intention of installing a Labour government ultimately unburdened by the constraints of the EU. Everything represented by the status quo has now been comprehensively challenged by millions of Britons, and a mandate for real change has arrived. It is now time to use it.