British second thoughts on Brexit - GulfToday

British second thoughts on Brexit

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Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

A YouGov poll found that 57 per cent of the English people think that it is better to get back to the single market option of the European Union, despite the fact that it has as its prerequisite the free movement of people, which would mean greater immigration into Britain.

It was the free movement of people within the EU that was the irritant that made 51.6 per cent of people prefer Brexit in 2016. Seven years later, large number of the Britons seem to have changed their mind.

There are nuances in preferences. A majority of those who support Labour also support getting back to the single market option, and majority of those who vote Conservative are not in favour of return to the single market.

But Labour, ahead of the Conservative Party in opinion polls, is tipped to win the next general election due in 2024. Interestingly, Labour leader Keir Starmer is not in favour of returning to the single market. It has also been found that 71 per cent of those polled by YouGov were in favour of closer ties with EU. It is indeed curious as to why a significant majority of Britons have rediscovered the virtues of being integrated with the continent.

The general sentiment of many English people about the EU was that the EU was eroding national identity and sovereignty by imposing European rules and laws on national rules and laws.

The British found thus an alarming trend, and there were a small group of fierce nationalists with right-wing leanings who were only too eager to inflame the national fears and prejudices of the English.

But after working through a tortuous divorce process between the United Kingdom (UK) and EU under the maverick leadership of Boris Johnson as Conservative prime minister. The overenthusiastic English politicians like Johnson did not anticipate the dampening effects on the economy by cutting Britain off economically from the continent.

The assumption was that Britain could realise its potential as a great power without the EU curbs. But the economic alternatives of forging trade partnerships with countries like India or the ASEAN did not work out. Though Indo-Pacific seems to beckon Britain, the advantages seem elusive.

It looks like that the British now seem to think that there is greater economic safety with the next door neighbour, that is the EU. It also seems to be the case that Britain would grudgingly play host to European immigrants under EU rules rather than be crowded by the non-European migrants from West Asia and northern Africa.

This of course reveals the racial prejudice though Britain has achieved the ideal of a multi-racial and multi-religious society. This has come about because of the immigrants from the Caribbean and Asian immigrants in Africa, especially many of high worth individuals from among the South Asians who had come into Britain from countries like Kenya and Uganda in the 1960s and 1970s.

And successful South Asian-origin leaders like British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak show that non-European immigrants can be an ideal minority. Beyond the fault-lines of racial politics and immigration, there is the economic viability of Britain as a rich economy. India, which was once the Jewel of the Crown in the far-flung British empire, has now replaced Britain as the fifth largest economy in terms of GDP.

Britain could find safety in the large multi-national EU economy in face of competition from countries like India. So the change in British sentiment since the referendum favouring Brexit to that of a more favourable pro-EU is understandable.

The United Kingdom finds safety in EU. That is indeed an interesting turnaround in a matter of seven years. Of course, the YouGov poll is more or less like a straw poll and it cannot be taken as a reliable guide to public opinion.

But the change in perception is perceptible and it means that Britain is doing an interesting re-think about narrow preference for Brexit. Staying close to the continent is a geographical necessity.

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