fbpx

An award winning media company committed to sharing the perspectives of people of colour from marginalised genders

With the UK’s borders closed due to Covid-19, the wet dream of Britain’s Brexit bros has come true

Welcome to Plague Island, you can never leave.

22 Dec 2020

Image: Flickr/YouTube

Well. Haha. What a mess. If this is what “taking back control” feels like, give me a punch in the face over such autonomy any day. After nearly four years of wrangling, a certain section of rabidly racist Brexiteers have got what they wished for: a Britain completely cut off from the rest of the world. But it’s not quite the display of British might they had envisaged.

In the end, it wasn’t Jacob Rees Mogg and his band of Victorian caricatures who managed to ensure the UK’s total isolation. Instead, a “new strain” of Covid-19, potentially more transmissible than previous variants, triggered nations across the globe to firmly shut the door in the face of the UK. Scotland led the charge, banning cross-border travel from England and Wales, but the rest of the world followed in quick succession. 

More than 40 nations are currently refusing to admit travellers from the UK. Royal Mail have paused delivery on packages to Europe, Canada and Turkey, while Sunday also brought the news that France was closing the Eurotunnel to all freight from England for 48 hours. More than 1,500 lorries – already subject to massive delays as businesses attempted to stockpile goods ahead of a predicted no-deal Brexit on 31 December – were cut off, with nowhere to go. Food stockists began warning of shortages on certain goods and scenes of panic-buying, reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic, returned to British supermarkets. 

We have been shut off like the plague rats we are.  

For many, the implications of the border closures, freight crisis and immediate UK isolation were obvious: it was a “Brexit rehearsal dinner”. This, after all, was what England and Wales (never mind what Scotland and Northern Ireland had to say about it) had overwhelmingly voted for – to cut ourselves off, to “take back control”, to take an axe to our relationship with mainland Europe and beyond in order to demonstrate that the UK was still an independent player in the big leagues on the world stage. Oh, and to keep to those pesky immigrants out

Whatever your views on the European Union, it is safe to say that the xenophobia and deceptive nationalism won the day in 2016. 

The eurosceptics of Vote Leave didn’t claim victory because they laid out a nuanced case of the ways separating ourselves from the EU, but maintaining an alternative relationship, could benefit the nation. They won because they said the UK didn’t need the EU and its millions of immigrants. They won because they told people that immigration from the EU was crippling the nation’s infrastructure and economy (when, in fact, EU migrants have acted as a lifebuoy to keep it from sinking altogether). They won by peddling a fantasy that the UK is still a heavyweight world power that any other country would be lucky to trade with. That fantasy now lies crushed under the tires of 1,500 lorries sat stationary on the M20.

As if needs spelling out: the UK is a nation in decline. We are, as former Tory prime  minister John Major admitted, not a “great power” and never will be again. John generously went on to place us as a “top-second rank power”. I would say recent events show otherwise. The ease with which other countries can cut us off is now evident. Boris Johnson took to television screens yesterday to reassure people that trade should not be affected by the new Covid-19 strain, in a desperate address that seemed aimed far more at Emmanuel Macron than the general public. Yet talks with France remain unresolved; meanwhile the list of countries shutting us out are mounting ever higher. We have no bargaining power and no physical escape. 

Funnily enough, now the shoe is on the foot, those who campaigned so avidly for this scenario are frothing at the mouth. The Brexit Party’s official Twitter account declared that “government irresponsibility” gave EU leaders an “excuse” to shut their borders, going on to hilariously declare that: “we need can-do, hopeful leadership, not people who instill fear to implement their failing policies”. What a change in attitude. 

If, as predicted, the union falls apart, an even more bleak future awaits for many citizens of the UK, although some may escape the fate staring down England via independence movements. Scotland, understandably, wants no part in a future fuelled by what is primarily English nationalism, and are pushing for a new independence referendum as soon as 2021. A united Ireland looks far more likely in the aftermath of Brexit, especially with Joe Biden about to enter presidential office in America. Even the dormant dragon of Wales looks to be stirring, fed up with Westminster neglect. 

For now, the UK is still intact. But the events of the past three days alone have shown us a glimpse of the true state of the nation. What a harrowing picture it is; the narrow, isolated little island of our nightmares. Physically, and diplomatically, cut off. There is one chink of light, however, for those of us who have been told for so long we are not quite British enough. Ironically, perhaps it is the elements of our heritage that have seen us Othered that will provide us with our (literal) passport away from this rainy lump of rock, leaving Nigel Farage and co here to rot. Imagine; suddenly being Brit(ish) is the most prized status of all. What sweet irony.