Brexit: Good news for Ghana, a nightmare for Ghanaians in Britain

Image by Frankie Leon used under a Creative Commons license.

[First published on Pulse Ghana, 11 July 2016. Within hours of publication the Tories’ home secretary Theresa May had been confirmed as Britain’s next prime minister, despite – or because of – her monstrous treatment of migrants in post. Media Diversified has more. ]

If a week is a long time in politics, the fortnight since Britain’s razor-thin vote to leave the European Union could fill a history book. Although as Twitter commentators nervously joked, it’d be the kind of history book ending with detailed descriptions of troop movements.

It’s a historic moment for Britons exercising their democratic rights, as our state media keeps telling us with a certain desperate cheeriness. But ironically the Conservative government which proposed this referendum is now too afraid of angering the forty-eight percent of voters who wanted to stay in the EU to actually begin the process. The air is so toxic that within days the Prime Minister David Cameron, the Leave campaign’s leader Boris Johnson MP and the UK Independence Party’s leader Nigel Farage all quit their posts in the craven hope that we’ll have forgotten all about it by our next general election.

But we won’t forget. As I told Stacey Knott in the latest Pulse Ghana podcast, the decision to leave the EU will shape a generation: a generation which sees European funding disappear from community programmes and vital infrastructure like flood defences; which sees inflation, tax hikes and tariffs on European imports push food prices further beyond household incomes; told over and over again by our politicians and press that immigrants (and the children of immigrants, and anyone who cares about immigrants) are to blame.

Certainly some people – in Ghana’s ex-pat community, even – voted to leave on other grounds, say, the distant prospect of trade deals for Ghana’s exporters as the UK returns cap-in-hand to its former colonies. But primarily the Leave and Remain campaigns sold white British voters a racist paranoid fantasy that leaving the European Union would return Britain to the halcyon days of empire, when brown people were courteous enough to enrich our economy without actually coming here and expecting a share of it.

The Leave camp’s UK Independence Party capped off years of less-than-subtle rhetoric with images of snaking queues of people with tobacco-coloured skin and dusty clothes, emblazoned with the words “BREAKING POINT”. Meanwhile Remainers in both the Conservative government and Labour opposition insisted that immigration ‘controls’ could and would be pursued in a new round of negotiations with the EU’s other member states. With a few notable exceptions, our parliamentarians, pundits and newspaper owners overwhelmingly framed the European Union as either the cause of or solution to our migrant crisis, rarely questioning the assumption of a crisis at all.

That poisonous rhetoric has seen our culture of casual racism reach a new fever pitch, with our upper-crust shocked and appalled to find that bigots don’t bother with the niceties of birthplace, nationality or legal status. Second-generation Brit Stephanie Yeboah was one of thousands to suffer Brexit-fuelled abuse – in her case, a crowd chanting “make Britain white again” – within hours of the result. London’s police force has been receiving reports of hate crimes at a rate of one every twenty minutes. And the latest frontrunner for the Prime Minister’s job, former home secretary Theresa May, is best known for deploying billboards to ethnically diverse neighbourhoods with the warning “GO HOME OR FACE ARREST”.

It’s a Commonwealth in name – but if you believe the headlines, Ghana’s sons and daughters have nothing in common with us and no share in our wealth. It’s a lie of course, but too big to fight with facts alone any longer. We can only hope that in the years to come, those who remain within Britain’s borders find enough support from their friends, families, communities and white allies to weather the breaking storm.


flood defences

further beyond household incomes

images of snaking queues of people

the Conservative government

Labour opposition

a few notable exceptions

one of thousands to suffer Brexit-fuelled abuse

a crowd chanting “make Britain white again”

receiving reports of hate crimes


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