On Britain and Brexit


“The universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” This quote from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, albeit in a different context, has always been in my mind every time I went fell walking in the Lake District. This area is an intriguing part of Britain, in which silence is the dominant theme, occasionally interrupted by shy noise from a lone sheep or footsteps from another walker.

Leaving the touristic towns and villages and heading up to the hills, one can find a different Britain, authentic, intriguing, and completely detached from multi-cultural trendy London. Those who are baffled by the desire of some British to leave the EU should head north to listen to communities quietly struggling to maintain their way of life and authenticity.

Fell walking has always been challenging. It pushed me out of my comfort zone. Coming from an urban suburb in Cairo had never prepared me to deal with rocks, tricky paths, and steep hills. The outcome, however, after hours of physical struggle has always been rewarding. The effect on a person is simply a blessing that I could not have imagined.

My favorite trail is to the Great Gable, or the Pyramid, as I like to call it. The mountain lying at the very heart of the English Lake District does indeed appear as a pyramid from the valley of Wasdale. The best day to visit Great Gable is on Remembrance Sunday in November, when the Fell and Rock Climbing Club holds a service to its members and others who have perished in conflicts around the world.

I never felt as spiritual as at that moment on top of Great Gable. A sense of being close to heaven, purified from the materialism of our world. There was no Costa Café, McDonald’s or Itsu, just a group of walkers gathering to watch a defiant sun appearing defiantly behind the cloud with golden rays that turned the entire valley into a magical place.

Living in the north Of England has helped me to better understanding the Brexit camp. It is easy to describe those who are anti-Europe as racist or ignorant. That is how things may appear to many Londoners enjoying their fine Italian cheese or French delicacies. For them, divorcing Europe might sound like a crazy idea or at least baffling.

Meanwhile, for others who have tried to dig deeper and look for rational reasons, there have been some sound arguments. Owen Jones rightly explained the grievances of working class Britain and how the referendum has opened up a chasm that reflects the inequality in the UK and the monsters of a deeply divided and unfair society. The class aspect of the dispute about the EU referendum, however, does not explain the whole matter.

Amidst a heated debate about staying or leaving Europe, an important aspect is completely ignored. The leave campaign is for many, not a debate about immigration or EU laws, but a fight for authenticity___ a word that has slipped away from the vocabulary of many in Britain. Post-colonial Britain has actually developed a subconscious mind dismissive of its local culture, but deep in the hills of Britain, locals beg to differ. They are proud of their traditions, way of life, and feel utterly uneasy about the creeping changes affecting their societies. Staying out of Europe is their desperate way to maintain their way of life, which has been hijacked by the London elite.

The drift between London and the hells of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Cumbria has become wide and dangerous. The social fabric of British society is torn apart. For many, London has become an alien city, an unfriendly expensive place. Its red buses and old buildings are only the remaining reminders of its Britishness. Many of its elite has seemingly divorced the rest of Britain, and then looked surprised that Britain is growing rebellious at them.

It is true that anti-immigration, hatred and ugly nationalism has dominated the Brexit camp. The vile, brutal murder of Jo Cox is one glaring example. “The well of hatred,” as Labour party leader’s Jeremy Corbyn has described it won’t be defeated. However, by denigrating the Brexit camp and collectively labeling its supporters as racist fascists doesn’t reflect the whole story on the ground.

Without listening to the legitimate grievances of the Brexit camp, Britain will not recover from the aftermath of the EU referendum, even if the outcome turns out to be in favor of staying in Europe. I support staying in Europe, however I understand how Britain has become a mighty stranger to many of its subjects. The Brexit camp deserves our empathy, not our disdain.


About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
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6 Responses to On Britain and Brexit

  1. penniewoodfall says:

    I oppose the E.U. on the grounds that it is not democratic….
    “If socialism, and not the currently manifest barbarism, is what the people of Europe want, they would best serve themselves by bringing down the existing integrated order by forcing their respective national governments to exit the Union, with a view to replacing it later with a network of federated institutions more democratically responsive to the regional wills of the popular classes”.
    One should therefore be careful not to tar all “leave campaigners” with the same brush, as Nigel Farage/U.K.I.P.
    Good post


  2. Nigel Johnson says:

    Yes GB is a wonderful country . That won’t change whatever the result next week.
    The working class views you mentioned seem to have been hijacked by the people with the biggest mouths, ie: Left Wingers.
    Owen Jones has some great views but also some One eyed utopian visions of a future he believes in. And if you disagree, you get blocked .
    The Appalling Murder of Jo Cox was truly sickening, as was the left wingers immediate attack on the Brexit campaign.
    A tragically sad day was made worse by the inhumanity of the crazy sociopathic liberal lefties.
    I’m Voting Leave on the 23rd. I have not got a racist or homophobic or any hatred in my heart. But to be classed as just that is appalling.
    Most foreign people i know, including my wife prefer to remain in the EU. That made me question my own thoughts. I do understand her points of view but it’s the decades of erosion to our political system and ability to put the UK first has generally made my mind up.


  3. czarpo says:

    This is an extraordinary piece. I am so amazed that a person with with a completly different background can be so perceptive and so on the mark. Labeling people who care about their identity as facists or racists only adds to their sense of alienation and their despair.


  4. Pingback: Brexit and the Stubborn Liberals of the Western World | Nervana

  5. Pingback: Brexit and the Stubborn Liberals of the Western World | Nervana | Mark Geoffrey Kirshner

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