Karma calling? Country that used the divide and conquer division over Brexit
NEW DELHI: Now that it will surely become a reality, the United Kingdom As we know, it will surely undergo significant transformations. On the political front, the recent British elections exemplified a clear division in British society. Although Boris Johnson's pro-Brexit conservative party won the day, the anti-Brexit field remains considerable but divided. Take the example of Scotland where the Scottish national anti-Brexit party won by a landslide. Potentially, this establishes another Scottish referendum. Then, while Johnson negotiated a new Brexit agreement for Northern Ireland, the effectiveness of the plan to avoid a hard border between British Irish territory and the Republic of Ireland has not yet been proven.
What all of this means is that psychologically the United Kingdom is no longer one entity. Brexit has fundamentally challenged Britain’s projection of itself in the world. United Kingdom can no longer claim to be a champion of liberal values as Brexit was primarily driven by a desire to keep out foreigners and take back control of immigration and United Kingdom ’s borders. Where
Once Britain saw itself as a modernizing force for the world, a perception that also supported British colonialism in past centuries, today it is a divided nation where parish forces have won the lead.
Which questions the credibility of British soft power. For the past 200 years, English was seen as the language of progress. It was the frank language of science, political theory, diplomacy and finance, and a window to progressive ideas such as equal justice, democracy &
But in light of Brexit, all of that is coming apart. According to American political scientist Joseph Nye — who coined the term soft power in the late 1980s — a country’s cultural, ideological and institutional attractiveness could help it shape the world. And until recently, Britain had deployed these soft assets brilliantly. But with Brexit, all of this risks boomeranging on the United Kingdom . For, as soon as British openness started being seen as a liability by a considerable section of the British population given a slowing economy and changing British demographics, racism and nativism reared their ugly heads. Fears began rising that the white British population would soon be overwhelmed by people of colour and outsiders. It is these regressive forces that are dividing Britain today and undermining its position as a cultural powerhouse.
Perhaps it is all karma. After all, Britain for centuries had divided people on the basis of ethnicity, religion and sects to profit from it. It drew arbitrary lines in the sand and sowed the seeds of generations-long communal strife. We in the subcontinent are well aware of the deep scars that Britain’s divide-and rule policy inflicted upon us. Today, it is the Britons’ turn to be divided on ideological – and possibly sectarian and ethnic – grounds. And with British openness, fairness and multiculturalism now undermined by Brexit, the pull of the United Kingdom as a destination for talent is also likely to fade. British politicians may think that they can manage the situation and maintain British soft power supremacy. But that would be arrogance — the same arrogance that saw certain British politicians boost regressive forces by proposing Brexit for political gains.
Soft power was really the United Kingdom ’s biggest asset since it was overshadowed by the military power of the US in the earlier half of the 20th century. And with the global axis of power shifting from the West to the East, the decline in British soft power is bound to hurt the United Kingdom even more. In that sense, Britain risks becoming an old, sclerotic nation with little real influence in the world. Many would say it serves them right.