Karma call? Country that used division and split rule on Brexit
Boris Johnson won the day
+ , the anti-Brexit camp remains considerable but divided. Take the example of Scotland, where the Scottish national anti-Brexit national party won by a landslide. This potentially sets up another Scottish referendum. Then, while Johnson has negotiated a new Brexit agreement for Northern Ireland, the effectiveness of the plan to prevent a harsh border between British Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has not yet been proven.
What all this means is that psychologically the UK is no longer an entity. Brexit has
fundamentally questioned Britain’s projection
+ himself in the world. The UK can no longer claim to be an advocate of liberal values, as Brexit was driven mainly by a desire to keep foreigners out and take back control of immigration and UK borders. Where Britain once saw itself as a modernizing force for the world—a perception that also sustained British colonialism in centuries past—today a divided nation is located where parish forces have gained the upper hand.
That calls into question the credibility of British soft power. Over the past 200 years, English has been seen as the language of progress. It was the lingua franca of science, political theory, diplomacy and finance, and a window into progressive ideas such as equality of justice, democracy and human rights.
But in the light of Brexit, all of that is falling 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 appeal could help shape the world. And until recently, Britain had deployed these soft assets brilliantly. But with Brexit, all of this risks booming in the UK. Because, as soon as British openness began to be seen as a responsibility for a sizeable section of the British population given a rapidly paced economy and changing British demographics, racism and nativism raised their ugly heads. Fears began to increase that the white British population would soon be overwhelmed by people of color and outsiders. It is these regressive forces that are dividing Britain today and undermining its position as a cultural powerhouse.
Maybe it’s all karma. After all, Britain for centuries had divided people on the basis of ethnicity, religion and sects to benefit from it. He drew arbitrary lines in the sand and sowed the seeds of the communal struggles of generations. On the subcontinent we are well aware of the deep scars that Britain’s policy of division and government inflicted on us. Today, it is the turn of the British to divide for ideological, and possibly sectarian and ethnic reasons. And with British openness, justice and multiculturalism now undermined by Brexit, the UK’s tug as a talent destination is also likely to fade. British politicians may think they can handle the situation and maintain the British supremacy of soft power. But that would be arrogance, the same arrogance that saw certain British politicians push down forces by proposing Brexit for political gain.
Soft power was actually the UK’s greatest asset as it was overshadowed by US military power in the first half of the 20th century. And with the global axis of power shifting from the West to the East, the decline of British soft power is destined to further harm the UK. In that sense, Britain risks becoming an ancient and sclerotic nation with little real influence in the world. Many would say it serves them well.