It's often claimed that staying in Europe would cause unmanageable anger and resentment, particularly among the British right. The reality is more complexby Emma-Lee Moss / July 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
It is no surprise that for its hardline cheerleaders, the 52-48 vote for Brexit was immediately claimed as the settled “will of the people.” What’s been remarkable, however, is how other political leaders and the wider media acquiesced in a very close vote on a moving question calcifying into “democratic case closed.” But—like it or not—that is the point of departure. And by those terms, a non-Brexit would mean that the people’s will is being disdained.
Enter the British far-right, which has already been showing signs of growing strength on the streets, as was seen with a large recent march on Whitehall. It is today a very different beast from single organisations such as the BNP. The modern far-right is a disparate set of groups and media-savvy individuals whose ideologies may not always overlap, but who have in common opportunism and a willingness to exploit public anger. Should Brexit fail, they could manage a brief moment of unity, taking to the streets and using online networks to spin a narrative of a nation betrayed by its elite.
For lone figures like Tommy Robinson or Paul Joseph Watson, whose appeal is linked to online conspiracy theories and mistrust of the mainstream media, a non-Brexit would be a gift, says Julia Ebner, researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and author of The Rage: The Vicious Circle of Islamist and Far-Right Extremism, a book on the chauvinist political fringe. “It would allow them to mainstream some of the existing conspiracy theories,” about the way the powerful stitch things up against the people.
The “grief” of Brexit voters who felt democracy had failed them might, Ebner says, even result in “military”-style movements trying to “hijack” all the resentment, peddling solutions of force, as an express alternative to democratic argument.
Neo-fascist organisations such as Britain First could also gain followers, or at least attract new interest from those disenfranchised voters who briefly felt empowered by the referendum result. They would be newly inclined to close their ears to established politicians and a supposedly “fake news” mainstream media. And in that frame of mind, they could easily be coaxed into wild anti-semitic or anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.
Then there’s Generation Identity, the youth-focused “identitarian” movement with links…