Book look: Fool Britannia?

Will there be consequences for the life of EU citizens based in Britain? Is the United Kingdom’s government going to issue immigration restrictions? And what will become of English export figures?

These are the most crucial questions after last year’s Brexit referendum. On 23 June, 51.9 per cent of Brits participating in the vote opted Leave – despite warnings concerning negative effects on people’s life, the country’s trade and its diplomatic relations with Brussels, Paris and Berlin.

In “Brexitannia. Die Geschichte einer Entfremdung. Warum Großbritannien für den Brexit stimmte”, Gabriel Rath analyses the developments leading up to the result which even shocked the No Campaign’s front runners. He tells from the widespread disappointment with the country’s leaders throughout the decades and informs about the Conservatives’ pro-Europe attitude in the 1970s.

Rath underlines the strong impact of the country’s leading papers. While the Sun supported the European idea in the 1970s, the bestselling tabloid appealed to “BeLEAVE in Britain” ahead of the 2016 poll. David Cameron – who resigned as prime minister after the Brexit vote – fought for a “new settlement” between the EU and his country but failed to convince the right-wing media, UKIP and Tory backbenchers.

According to “Brexitannia”, around 30 million pounds were spent on the Better In and Leave campaigns leading to the referendum in which 72 per cent of those eligible to vote actually participated. Studies show that communities with a strong percentage of foreigners opted in favour of the EU membership while poorly educated people on the countryside, unskilled workers and unemployed Britons wanted their country to free itself from the “Brussels dictatorship”.

Rath concludes that strong immigration within a few years – the UK did not ask for preliminary restrictions after the EU’s expansion of 2004 – boosted nationalist feelings while the British economy struggled in terms of effectiveness compared with Germany and even France. Furthermore it strongly transformed from an industrial superpower to a wounded competitor consisting mainly of the service industry and an unpredictable financial sector.

Especially economic effects could be devastating if the European Commission and the negotiators appointed by Prime Minister Theresa May fail to agree. The author informs that eight in the UK’s 10 most important trade partners are EU member states. Britain’s export firms are strongly depending on the European market while just eight per cent of EU exports are shipped to Britain.

Rath manages to show the manifold aspects which led to the No vote of June 2016. He describes the disappointment with the UK’s political elite which at some point failed to connect with the people and do something about their daily life problems and worries about their future.

The book ends with lengthy chapters about Tony Blair’s rise and fall, the Iraq invasion, the country’s media giants and different developments in society. Rath – who is strongly biased against the Leave campaign and its representatives – tries to create links between these topics and the majority’s support of Brexit but fails. You may assume that these issues were considered to expand the volume of “Brexitannia” which ends after just 200 pages.

Brexitannia. Die Geschichte einer Entfremdung
By Gabriel Rath
Published by Braumüller (www.braumueller.at)

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