Ostrich Syndrome

Rupanjana Dutta Tuesday 04th December 2018 13:13 EST

When Sajid Javid saw the footage of a Syrian refugee boy being attacked by a racist bully, he recalled his painful memories of a similar experience from his school days. He told BBC on Monday 3rd Dec, that at the age of 11, he was punched to the ground because he was Asian. Today Javid is the first Asian Home Secretary of Britain. But looking at the attack on the Syrian boy must have made Javid wonder “how can this kind of thing still go on in a country like Britain?” Let us understand how Javid was handed over this job from Amber Rudd- a true ally of Prime Minister Theresa May. The Windrush scandal had opened up the pandora's box- how much ever we deny, it was a form of racism, and it stemmed from a hostile environment, that May created.

And Javid at that moment was the best May had, for damage control and to prove that her policies were not racist. As a senior Tory says, for Javid the immigration policy is much personal. But for May it was longing for a Britain, that was entirely hypothetical.

Britain as a country is fair, inclusive and often just. It has come a long way since blacks, Irish and dogs were not allowed in bed & breakfasts. But Brexit has revealed how Britain continues to remain racist even at its subconscious level, years after the word 'diplomacy' was coined by them.

What is Theresa May trying to do?

Home Office has still not agreed with No 10's plans about the government's 'white paper' on immigration, that was promised more than a year ago.

Cabinet has no collective position and the Conservative party is in a total mess about the meaning of referendum and what kind of country the UK will be after it leaves the EU. Britain's former 'colonial subordinates' and now so called 'commonwealth countries' are not there to bail out a decaying economy and severe austerity. A new set of trade rules are to be considered- but her sentiment towards UK's immigration policy has already alienated the prospects.

While Javid calls himself a big fan of immigration, and believes this country is stronger in so many ways because of its diversity, and with people's contributions like that of his parents, it is not an epiphany that May will ever actually have. For an Anglo-Saxon vicar's daughter, immigration is more about 'a culture' she has known and grown up believing (as Rachel Sylvester rightly points out in her column in The Times), and it is ambitious for Javid to expect May to turn a new leaf after all these years.

But the irony is Brexit was never meant to be about immigration, a Brexiter told Asian Voice. It was meant to be nationalistic, a revolt against constraints on British sovereignty. It was May's hostile environment since as the Home Secretary that made it all about immigration. They won the 2016 referendum by playing the race card. May is trying to represent herself as a 'bloody difficult woman' and in a man's world, perhaps it is a defensive act more than a personality trait. But it is also becoming her greatest vulnerability. She has run out of options, and her narrow minded attitude may actually put her out of job.

Government on the ropes

If the current draft of Brexit is accepted by a majority in the House of Commons, and by all other EU governments, its terms will then come into force. An oderly transition period will be underway. But if no action is taken, Britain will go its Brexit way with no deal. Britons who favour Brexit, portray this as a simple change of trade rules from EU to WTO standards. They have also named Remainers over worries about food rationing, or medicine shortages as propaganda of the 'Project Fear'. They insist that no deal is greatly preferable than a poor one. But Ostrich syndrome actually does not erase the real challenges ahead.

Changing to WTO rules is about more than tarrifs, and a no-deal Brexit is definitely more than just trade. It will have many legal obligations- and it will put at risk air travel, electricity interconnections, pharmacy, medical staff, health care, logistics, finances, currency, drinks- and many such areas that one can think of.

Somehow May thinks that Britons living in Europe will not be affected by it, but the reality is different. France has already demanded for work permits if there is a no deal Brexit.

If Britain creates obstacles for EU, it will inturn create obstacles for Britons – it's a natural cycle of 'vengence'. MPs forcing May to disclose full legal advice on Brexit, proves May should understand that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The result of disclosure could be anything. A fall out could result in people's vote or perhaps another general election, especially if DUP pulls out. As Dr Vince Cable rightly points out, "This is now a government on the ropes. Theresa May's majority has evaporated, and the credibility of her deal is evaporating with it. The Commons is now very likely to defeat the Government again next week on the Brexit deal, at which point the country must be given a People's Vote, and asked to choose between the deal or remaining in the EU."

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