In a final plea to British Muslims to vote Leave, Abdullah Thomson explains why the UK is better off outside the European Union.
It is a shame when pro-Remain Muslim bloggers parrot the media’s framing of this Brexit debate: “You’re either with the caring Remainians or you’re a far right facilitator.” Just because the omnipresent Nigel Farage manages to be in the majority of TV interviews, does not mean there aren’t also intelligent mature adults who can see sound logical reasons for political and legal independence from the EU.
It is true, some of the Leave campaigners seem determined to lose the support of Muslims and immigrants by focusing on these groups, but both sides use us as a political football, there is no “pro-Islam” side in secular politics, so we might as well stop looking for one.
On the economic argument, the one thing both sides agree on is the uncertainty. Neither have any concrete facts, but when the vanilla predictability of doing nothing to change our situation is touted as security, I wonder how much thought has gone into the opinion. We need to think critically about what we are told. Instead of celebrating that 50% of our exports go to the EU, we must ask why, when the EU is only 16% of the world market and declining, we are only exporting the same amount to the remaining 84% of the world? It doesn’t seem like a smart person would celebrate that.
Claims that we won’t be able to strike trade deals with the EU or that those deals would inevitably be unfavourable ignore that the UK is the largest single export market for the other EU countries. It is more in their interest to maintain this relationship and ensure it is a smooth transition. It is certain that a Brexit will not be an end of trade between the UK and EU, so let’s move past that economic issue.
Healthcare and immigration
One commentator suggested that the NHS will collapse if we stop EU migration, though I wonder who it is with the vivid imagination. I’m seeing most NHS staff coming from the Indian sub-continent, the Philippines, and African nations. Anyway, a vote for leave is not a vote to halt essential immigration – it is a vote to be able to choose where the immigration is from and how many can come.
Simply put, UKIP are a protest party with a single core issue of independence from the EU. When UKIP MEP, Amjad Bashir left the party, his reason was UKIP’s “ridiculous lack of policies” – they are so single minded about the EU that they really have nothing else to offer.
On this single issue they have grown to having 24 members in the European Parliament, more than any other UK party, and won 12% of the vote at the last general election, a 320% increase over the previous election.
There is an absolute correlation between public dissatisfaction with our continued membership of the EU and their dramatic rise in popularity. Just apply a little logic and think what is more likely to result in an increase in votes for UKIP; now that we have had months of heated debate, and around 50% of the country is hoping for UK independence. On the other hand if we leave the EU, there will be a lot of serious work to be done, and the established parties will be much more likely to be trusted, by their usual voters, to get the job done.
The UK is far from alone in having a rise of Euro-scepticism. In total, a third of the members of the European Parliament are working with the stated aim of abolishing the European Parliament from within, and regaining their national sovereignty. When the Remain camp talk about the security of being in the EU, they make it sound like we would be leaving a harmonious and stable entity. They don’t take these recent developments into account, and stubbornly refuse to consider logically where this direction of travel could take us.
Most Euro-scepticism is related to immigration concerns. In this country, the rhetoric is mainly aimed at EU migration, while on mainland Europe it is primarily anti-Muslim immigration. Every anti-Muslim far right party in Europe seems to have MEPs; France’s Front National have 24 becoming the largest French party, Greece’s extreme Golden Dawn have 3 of their 21 seats, the Danish People’s Party took 27% of their vote, and Germany now have a fully-fledged Neo-Nazi MEP, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop this rise continuing if that is what the people vote for.
Unfortunately the leaders of the EU lack something in the wisdom department. When the Slovakians, Hungarians, Polish refused to take Muslim refugees, the EU’s answer was to threaten them with a €250,000 fine for every refugee they refused.
A laudable aim you might think, but also a clearly insane way to pour petrol on the flames. The arrogant traditional EU establishment is under severe threat lately.
Slovakia’s anti-immigration nationalist Prime Minster, essentially their equivalent of Nigel Farage, won the popular vote after saying “Muslims have no place in our country”, and that they will never accept Muslim refugees. He is set to take over the EU Presidency in a few days time, which gives him increased decision making powers over EU policies. They all get a go no matter what their vile politics is, and there is nothing anyone in the EU can do to stop this, no matter how much worse they get. That’s “kuffar democracy” folks. Leaders that other people voted for become our leaders, while we remain members of the EU.
Rise of populism in the EU
Perhaps the most imminent threat to EU stability though is the rise of populism in the EU, a response to the established order forcing unpopular policies onto the masses. In recent years, a perfect storm has seen mass immigration inflaming right wing populism, and austerity inflaming left wing populism. Two issues which are certain to get worse before they might get better.
When our established order is as bad as ours, it is tempting to think anything would be better. However, keeping millions of people in some form of civilised order is no easy task, and remember these are people of Jahiliyyah with no guidance to follow other than their whims and desires.
Historically, the most disastrous and murderous political movements started in this way; mass dissatisfaction, charismatic leaders promising the unthinking, misguided masses a simplistic return to better days.
It will necessarily be a simple plan when it has to appeal to the masses, the rhetoric has already started so there is no guess work in this, it is “us and them”, and we know where the Muslims and immigrants fit into that scenario.
The upshot of all this is even if EU membership offered some financial stability in the short term, today’s vote is for the long term.
Do we feel safe being legally tied to a Europe that many feel is on the brink of a messy and unpredictable populist revolution? At the very least, we should expect a break-up of the EU sooner or later if the rise of Euro-sceptic politics continues at the current pace.
Do we want to be ahead of the curve or get caught up in the mess? If you are sceptical about what I’m saying, do your own research about the current rapid rise, and past ugly history of populism in EU nations, at the very least you’ll have to see the promise of EU security is an outdated fantasy, it has recently become a very uncertain place, not least for Muslims.
If you are sceptical that our own populist nationalist UKIP would do better from a vote to Remain in the EU, consider the Scottish equivalent, the SNP. At the 2010 general election, they had 6 of the 59 Scottish seats (MPs) with 19% of the vote. Then 44% of the public went through the process of deciding to exit the UK, and got behind the SNP’s call for independence, but lost. At the next General Election, they abandoned their traditional parties and swept the SNP to an unprecedented landslide victory, with 50% of the vote they captured 56 of the 59 seats. Read those numbers again. Not just a majority, it was very nearly a clean sweep.
People are fed up, and now they have been worked up into a frenzy. The logical prediction is that a vote for remain will be a vote for UKIP at the next general election, and yet more Euro-sceptic far right MEPs. The people who vote for UKIP won’t necessarily be far right racists, but they will end up voting far right racists into power as they are the only party advocating the Brexit, they have become convinced they need. A clean break now would take the heat out of the situation and keep us ahead of the curve.
But let’s not act only out of fear, albeit a rational risk aversion. Let’s be optimistic that a UK set free from Brussels with a need to pull together, and be more responsible for its own destiny will be a more thriving and dynamic place. Less centred on a dangerously fragmenting Europe and more open to the business opportunities in the economically booming wider world. It won’t be an end to the problems facing Muslims, and new attacks will surely come our way, but then looking at our current situation, the EU has done no more good for Muslims than we can do for ourselves, save perhaps the odd delayed decision. So let’s remove that added complication and start working on fixing things closer to home insha’Allah.
Abdullah Thomson is an erstwhile global traveller and insight seeker who graduated from the UCL, and a regular contributor for Islam21c.