The Cruel Circle of Brexit

Several areas of the UK with high percentages of ethnic minorities voted in favour of Brexit. They certainly influenced the vote greatly, but is the result now impacting them more than anyone else?

73% of black voters, 67% of Asian voters and 70% of Muslim voters all supported to remain in the EU. Despite this, as country we voted to leave the EU. The consequences of the referendum result have certainly come back to bite ethnic minorities, and the decision of some has potentially caused a cruel circle; a wanting to leave the EU and decrease  of immigration has led to tensions and xenophobic behaviour, that can influence others’ views, making them express a more bigoted opinion.

The majority of ethnic minorities in the UK are working to middle class citizens, and yet nearly three quarters of them voted remain. Their voting went against the trend as they themselves, several generations ago, were immigrants, and so are more likely to be more understanding and sympathetic towards free movement. Yet, if this is the case, why didn’t 100% of ethnic minorities vote remain? Why did 30% agree with the majority?

The most likely reason for this is that ethnic minorities such as those from the Indian subcontinent are in this country due to their ancestors moving here in the search of a better life, and to do this they would work day and night to provide the best possible future for their children, even if it meant that their job is technically worse than what they had back home, but with higher pay. My own grandfather, for example, gave up his job in a bank in Pakistan to move to the UK in the 1950’s, fixing peoples clothes on his sewing machine by day, and working in the Vauxhall factory in Luton by night.

This mentality of working hard to earn resonates with their offspring, and so they agree that those who come to the UK to earn a living instead of skiving off benefits is a perfectly sensible and respectful thing to do; showing ambition and a wanting of more from life. However, like many people, they hold the viewpoint of “I don’t want my taxes going to some unemployed Romanian who only came to this country for the benefits.”

This is due to that many people who are of an ethnic minority are second generation immigrants, and so are still feeling the effects of their parents’ hard work to earn them a better life, and they see it as unfair that many can come to this country and “earn” a living by staying on benefits. It is this viewpoint mixed with their opinion of “its ok for immigrants to come as long as they work” is what caused the disparity in which ethnic minorities voted in the EU referendum, with most voting remain, while a few voted for Brexit.

Another reason could be the effect of Priti Patel on the Asian community, and particularly the Indian contingent more so than the Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Sri Lankan communities. Her position as one of the “big three” Brexiteers along with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, enabled her to have a major influence on the referendum, despite being completely irrelevant before the vote, with her rapid ascent into the public eye all seemingly for potential positional gain in a post Brexit cabinet. I’m sure international development secretary is exactly what she wanted after claiming that we should be sending less money abroad; irony is a cruel yet hilarious mistress.


However, her impact cannot be underestimated- her ideology is to the right of the Tory party, something that reverberates with many in the Indian, and particularly Hindu community. Her comments on talented foreign curry chefs not being able to come to the UK due to “biased” immigration laws would have caught the attention with some, but criticism from others, with Keith Vaz accusing her of divide and rule politics. Her position as a vaguely important politician with an ethnic background who supported Brexit would have swayed many voters of colour, who came to the realisation that despite being immigrants themselves, that now fewer and fewer people are allowed to come into the UK, a stance that is hardly fair considering that they were in a similar position to many refugees and migrants, due to events in Uganda in 1972 and growing tensions in India and the former states of west and east Pakistan ( modern day Bangladesh).

Nonetheless, it is entirely possible that this 30% vote by ethnic minorities is what edged the leave campaigns victory. Upon further inspection, this is even more surprising considering that towns and cities that have large non-white communities voted for Brexit, such as Sheffield and Birmingham. In fact, the only city that voted for remain in the midlands, an area of the country which is often associated with have a large Asian population, was Leicester; the first city in the UK to have a population which is less than 50% white.

While ethnic minorities impacted the Brexit vote, how will it impact them? One of the biggest fears of Brexit has been the risk of less tolerant views on those who come to the UK, or who those aren’t white British. So has the recent reporting in the media of racist and xenophobic attacks and incidents got anything to do with Brexit, or is it “liberal scaremongering”, according to anyone right of centre?

There has in fact been a spike in the number of racist incidents and hate crimes. Quite a big spike in fact. A 57% rise in the four days post Brexit compared to the four preceding it can only be seen as unacceptable, with former Prime Minister David Cameron saying that the government will not tolerate intolerance”, with senior police chiefs holding talks on how to deal with the rising tensions, with one commenting that it is no surprise that that there has been an increase since the referendum.

Have ethnic minorities, by voting for Brexit, caused their own struggles? The attitude of a small minority of Brexiteers has certainly tarnished the leave campaign, with several reports of incidents such as shouts of “go back home” or “we voted to get you out of my country” hardly helping matters. Just because we voted as a country to leave the EU doesn’t mean we can now be less tolerant and “outspoken”, but instead that we have to be just as kind and welcoming, if not more so, to aide our need for a sustainable relationship with the EU.

For many of those who are the perpetrators of such racist attacks, the reason to leave to EU was due to immigration, and the free movement of people. While practically all racists are against free movement, being against it does not make you a racist, much like being a

supporter of UKIP makes you a supporter of Brexit, but being a supporter of Brexit does not make you a supporter of UKIP. I myself supported remain, and yet I can see why some want to decrease the number of people coming into this country. Some will get a job and contribute to the economy, but others need to stop coming to the UK to just live off the welfare state.


Nevertheless, we do have a moral obligation to help others who are not as fortunate as ourselves, and so should help as many people as possible, whether it be they are refugees displaced by war and conflict or migrants looking for a job to help their families. Many ethnic minorities see this, but have also been in this country long enough, particularly those of the black and Asian communities, to realise that public services are coming under increasing pressure, and so while they will support free movement, they would only want people to come to the country if they want to work.

The decision of some in these communities now mean that there may in fact be an increase in people coming to the UK in the short term, as they will try to get in to the country before we formally leave the EU, but in the long term, the net migration will decrease, easing pressure on public services, but the consequence of this is the increase of hate crime towards them and their respective communities. The cruel circle is now complete, and is unquestionably in rotation.

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