Home | About | Donate

The Key to the Brexit Backstory

The Key to the Brexit Backstory

Sally Tomlinson , Danny Dorling

The British empire may strike many of us as distant history that has no more than a marginal impact on our 21st-century lives. But we can’t really understand Brexit — the British move to exit the European Union — without understanding how that empire ended and, more pointedly, how Britain’s rich reacted to that demise. Two scholars at the University of Oxford, Sally Tomlinson and Danny Dorling, have an incisive new book out that explores the chain of events that have brought us to Brexit.

“When India, and then most colonies in Africa, won their freedom, the British rich found themselves suddenly becoming much poorer. They blamed the trade unions and socialists in the 1970s. To try to maintain their position, from 1979 onwards they cut the pay of the poorest in a myriad of ways and vilified immigrants in the newspapers they owned or influenced, while managing to hold on to some of the pomp and ceremony that their imperial grandparents had enjoyed.”

The narrative sounds familiar. Sounds like Thatcher (because it was). Sounds like Reagan. Sounds like…


I think it goes a lot further back this fostering of race hate. The 19th C Britons railed against the Irish immigrants, incited by the ruling class. The consequences are still felt in the sectarianism and bigotry of the Catholic-Protestant rivalry in Scotland.