Column – No place for racism in post-Brexit UK

If there were a prize for the most blindingly obvious title for any article anywhere, this one should be a pretty good entrant. Why do I even feel the need to write something which should be self-evident to anyone, anywhere?

Of course there’s no place for racism. In a post-Brexit UK, a pre-Brexit UK, or indeed in any other modern democracy. Yet the last fortnight has seen a pressure cooker of utter stupidity, mainly from the Remain side but I’ll hold my hands up and accept that some in Leave have been almost as guilty.

A vote for Brexit was many things. For most it was a vote to say that the UK is the best place to make British laws. For many it was a vote for control over immigration. For some it was a vote against the lobbying power of the big multinationals and for others it was a vote for a Britain free to negotiate trade deals around the world, looking to the globe not Little Europe. Still others voted to save money on our membership fee that could be pumped back into our NHS.

There were many reasons. To get 17.4 million people to vote for anything, anything at all, is completely unprecedented in the United Kingdom. If ever we needed proof that referendums engage and motivate people, it’s the fact that more people voted in this referendum than at a General Election. Many of who are totally disillusioned with party politics voted because they believed that this vote would actually change something.

Yet for a pathetically ridiculous few, it was a vote for something nastier. It’s the hate-filled vomit-inducing gut-wrenching bigotry of those who take a 1980s football hooligan mentality and aim it at immigrants.

(And on the Remain side there’s been some hooliganism too; we’ve had Leave campaigners see their property defaced, targeted and woken up during the night, thuggish graffiti daubed on boards, and women living alone preyed upon.)

I’ll condemn it from people who profess to support the UK too. I’m going to call the racists who daub themselves in a Brexit victory out for what they are. Racist, and stupid. Racist because whilst it’s a perfectly reasonable position to support limits on immigration, better policing of our borders and the deportation of foreign criminals, that is light years away from those appalling people who abuse those of a different skin colour. Death threats against those involved in politics haven’t gone away; from the UKIP candidate who was threatened with beheading last year to the threats against Pat Glass MP very recently. We need to ask why the law is not providing sufficient protection from criminal behaviour. The murder of Jo Cox MP raises further concerns around how we deal with mental health issues in this country, and security challenges which went ignored for too long.

Mainly though, it’s stupid. Because a vote for Brexit was actually vote against discrimination. If we had voted to stay in the EU there would have been zero chance of ending the discriminatory policy of controlling immigration from non-EU countries whilst allowing a free-for-all for the EU27. The current system is frankly immoral: it values a French or Romanian citizen higher than an Indian or Australian.

Why did I vote Leave? Yes, it was for many of the reasons outlined above, but it was also to end that discrimination and to allow us to move to a fair system where we control immigration.

Words cannot express the utter contempt that I feel for the thugs who seek to hijack the just cause of Leave. Was every bit of rhetoric on the Leave side on immigration perfect? No. Was Remain’s World War 3 doom-mongering and cataclysmic threats perfect? No; indeed, it’s partly to blame for spooking the stock markets.

Leave and Remain together need to be quite clear that there’s no place for racism in a post-Brexit UK. Remain must acknowledge that there will be a post-Brexit UK, and attempts of a disillusioned few to overturn that result must be stopped. We should all now be on the same side; the side of rationally, fairly and reasonably implementing the democratic mandate for Leave – which here in the North East was one of the strongest anywhere in the country – and achieving the best possible deal for Britain.