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
Published in August 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
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.