APROPOS the opinion piece ‘Hail Britannia’ by Asad Rahim Khan (Feb 3) misrepresents the complexity of the Brexit debate.
I have lived in the UK for over 12 years. For the last two years, I have been discussing and speaking with people in London, Manchester, and other areas of England about the reasons why many people voted to leave the European Union.
Mr Khan suggests that it is the feeling of past glories of Britain that resulted in Brexit. Mr Khan says “It’s no coincidence then, as one Guardian editor rightly pointed out, that so many Brexiteers have misty-eyed memories of ex-colonies.”
If that were true, how would one explain why large numbers of South Asians living in Britain, including many Pakistanis in London and elsewhere, voted to Leave the EU. If Leave was down to the “misty-eyed memories of ex-colonies” why would prominent, anti-imperialist intellectuals like Tariq Ali support the Leave vote. To reduce the Leave vote to “misty-eyed memories of ex-colonies” reduces the reasons for which people voted Leave.
In the referendum, I voted to Remain in the EU. However, I understand why many people, including many South Asians, around me voted Leave. It is not simply because of past glories but due to rising inequality that swamps many in England and Britain. The economic policies of the last three decades have produced uneven distributional results. Working class people in the UK have gained nothing from globalisation. This is well-documented by Branko Milanovic, author of Global Inequality. It is therefore incorrect, even unfair, when Mr Khan suggests in the article that “Britain may still see sense of course, and stick to the EU”. For many people, leaving the EU made sense. Those in position of privilege should try to understand, not undermine, resentment of those left behind by the economic policies of the last three decades.
Asad Ali Abbasi
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2019