The “Free Tommy Robinson” Protesters in London Were Making a Counterintuitive Argument for Britain to Remain in the EU

Yesterday in central London, a group of allegedly 20,000 people gathered to march, chant slogans and listen to speeches demanding the release from prison of the anti-Islam “activist” Tommy Robinson. The full details of the Robinson scandal are explained in a piece which can be read here.

While withholding any judgement on the cause of the protesters as I have dealt with that elsewhere, it was clear that among the demonstrators there were those shouting blasphemous slogans against Islam, while there was a contingent of others shouting unambiguously far-right provocations.

 

 

And in spite of this, by the standards of English nationalism, the event was surprisingly diverse. The keynote speaker was the Dutch politician Geert Wilders while the rally featured a Belgian speaker and a plethora of foreign flags including a visible number of Polish flags.

While the participants in the demonstration were overwhelmingly white European nationalists, the targets of their ire were primarily Muslims, while in spite of some (mainly European born) Asian speakers, south Asians and black people were also mentioned in an unfavourable light. Oddly, there were also occasionally remarks made which sought to portray the European Union negatively, something rather ironic given the presence of Dutch, Belgian and Polish people at the rally.

Ultimately though, when one listened to that which the speakers wanted: a Britain that was whiter, unwelcoming to Islam, unwelcoming to anyone of colour and unwelcoming to anyone not Christian, secular or Jewish, it was clear that the only organisation in the world that could potentially provide them with such a model is a European Union ruled by different politicians from the current crop.

 

 

Even under its current leadership, the European Union pursues an economically insular model whereby European producers are subsidised, European products are allowed to travel freely within a large bloc of nations but where foreign products whether Russia, Chinese, Pakistani, India, Indonesia, The Philippines, all of central Asia and most of Africa and and Latin America have a difficult time entering the market. Even in the midst of Trump’s protectionist crusade, it is generally easier to import goods from Asia, Africa and Latin America into the US than the EU In other words, the EU is already pursuing trading policies with the rest of the world whose insularity is sufficiently similar to the kind of socio-racial policies that many if not most of the “free Tommy” supporters are agitating for.

Furthermore, the European Union’s guarantee of freedom of movement among citizens from member states provides for the easy inflow and outflow of overwhelmingly white (in some cases downright pale) individuals among a bloc of nations that does not and likely never will contain a nation without an overwhelmingly white majority.

By contrast, a more global minded trading initiative after Brexit (assuming Brexit even happens) would allow Britain to begin signing free trading agreements from non-white majority countries, including Muslim majority nations and furthermore, if preferential access to Britain was given to individuals from the (British) Commonwealth, it would mean that non-white people from places like Jamaica, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago would have preferential treatment in terms of living in the UK over the likes of the Dutch, Belgians and Poles who held their banners high at the Tommy Robinson rally.

 

 

Of course there are things about the EU that the generally pro-Brexit Tommy Robinson supporters do not like. They do not like the EU’s refugee policy and they generally do not like the EU’s stance on socially liberal issues even though as not one anti-women or anti-homosexual slogan was audibly chanted at the pro-Tommy Robinson rally, it would appear that Robinson’s supporters are more willing to tolerate liberal social characteristics than conservative Islamic ones. In fact at the Free Tommy rally there were multiple female speakers while at a previous rally co-organised by Robinson an openly gay man of Greek and English descent who claims to be Jewish, Milo Yiannopoulos was a keynote speaker. Thus, do Robinson’s supporters really dislike the socially liberal tendencies of the EU? It would appear that they don’t mind them at all so long as socially conservative Muslims are excluded from this ‘melting pot’.

Thus, it would appear that apart from Angela Merkel’s pan-EU flagship refugee policy, most of the Robinson supporters have more in common with the governments of Italy, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary than they do with any of the major parties in Britain apart from an electorally beaten UKIP.

 

 

In this sense, the very white and very European (including non-English European) pro-Robinson rally represents a segment of potential EU supporters who due largely to a poor distribution of information about the EU in Britain (something Brussels raised throughout the Brexit referendum process) have conflated the systematic and structural realities of the EU (which suits their agenda) with a set of neo-liberal policy makers who they dislike. Put a different way, the very structure of the EU is something that if pursued under different political leadership could make Britain look more like a Tommy Robinson rally (aka white and anti-Islamic) and less like the things that Robinson’s supporters dislike.

Making matters even more surreal, with more right wing parties rising to power throughout the European Union, Robinson’s British supporters actually have more allies inside the EU than in any group of nations in the world. While many of Robinson’s supporters are also fond of Donald Trump, if Britain remained in the EU, Britain’s right wing could work more closely with their allies in the EU to form similar parties in the UK than they could hope to do with the United States which ultimately doesn’t have any interest in Europe’s social policy, but is instead only concerned with Europe in terms of NATO cooperation and trading agreements.

 

 

Perhaps oddly then, neo-liberal minded individuals in Britain tend to support EU membership in spite of the EU moving firmly towards the right and the ‘white’, while Britain’s far right tends to support Brexit even though Britain’s most popular parties are now far more in favour of so-called multiculturalism than many governing parties and rapidly rising opposition groups throughout the EU. There is hardly a party in Britain as right-wing as France’s National Rally (formerly National Front), Germany’s ADF or the Dutch Freedom Party. Furthermore, the average supporters of all of these parties don’t seem to mind foreigners so long as they are white and not Muslim as was evidenced by the multi-national presence at the Tommy Robinson rally, both on stage and in the crowd.

Of course there are those on the far-left who support Brexit for democratic and economic reasons while there are also those who are not party political and still want Britain to remain in the EU because it is not clear that Britain will be able to handle economic life outside the EU, certainly not in the near future.

But taken in totality, the great irony of the entire Brexit issue is that the lack of information in Britain regarding what the EU really is has turned those who think and act like the British ruling class into supporters of the EU, while Tommy Robinson’s gang of right wing football hooligans now have vastly more in common with the structural realities of the EU as well as the turning political tides in Europe than they do with mainstream British politics. Of course none of this is to say that all Brexit supporters want a multiracial society and that all pro-EU Britons are Robinson style hooligans. In fact the opposite stereotype is the one preferred by the mainstream media even though that stereotype is equally false. The fact remains though that if one wants to associate with an overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly non-Islamic group of nations, the best thing for the Free Tommy supporters to do is band together with their European allies and work to both democratically kick Merkel out of office in Germany and work to end Bresxit in the UK. Ironically, they have largely taken the opposite approach.

It is one thing to be careful what one wishes for, but it is quite another to be blissfully unaware of that for which one is wishing.

 

 

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