Why are Poles worried if it was about Turkey?
Now that the referendum is over and the dust is beginning to settle, the true picture of what happened in Britain and the reasons for this are slowly beginning to emerge. Although they supported the “Leave” campaign, many Britons are reportedly having second thoughts about what they did.
According to the coverage in the British media there are quite a few people who voted “Leave” assuming that the “Remain” camp would win. Saying “no to the EU” for them was a safe way of registering their protest without having to risk any fallout.
This was ingenuous or course and punished by a shocking outcome. What’s done however cannot be undone, even if there is a campaign now for a second “corrective” referendum to be held.
The vase has been broken in a fit of anger, and the cracks will show even if it is stuck back together, as any of the BBC’s “Antiques Road Show” specialists will attest.
Now is also the time to separate the lies from the truth.
Turkey was abused so unabashedly in this referendum that it appeared at times as if Ankara’s EU membership bid was what Britons were being asked to vote on. It did not matter that this membership is nowhere in sight, and certainly will not happen during the lifetimes of many of the older generation who voted to leave the EU.
If the arguments about Turkey were true it should have been young voters who were concerned, given that much of their lives are still ahead of them. But most young people voted to remain in the EU, believing that unity is strength.
It was ultimately “Little Britain” whose grievances carried the day and proved how self-destructive even supposedly intelligent nations can be. Turks say “if you rise with anger you will sit down with loss.” Many Britons rose in anger and now they have to calculate their losses.
One cannot help ask a simple question now. If Turkey was indeed the problem why are Poles, Bulgarians and Romanians, all of them citizens of EU member states, worried today?
British media is rife with interviews with Central and Eastern Europeans working in the U.K. who are deeply concerned about their future. And rightly so it seems.
While Turks were the butt of British racism, it was in fact the presence of Central and Eastern Europeans in Britain that fueled this racism. “Turk” was only a euphemism for “Pole,” “Romanian” or “Bulgarian.”
But the cover is down now. There is racist graffiti on the entrance of the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) in London, and cards reading “no more Polish vermin” being posted through letterboxes following the Brexit referendum, according to The Guardian.
The way Turkey was used in this campaign has nevertheless left a bad taste in Turkish mouths. No doubt this is why many of them, including a considerable number of government officials, are gloating over the mess Britons have landed themselves in.
The sentiment in much of the pro-government media is clear: “May things get worse for the Brits. They deserve every bit of it!” Sober minds in the U.K. and Turkey know, however, that bilateral relations between Turkey and Britain stand to be deepened now.
Britain out of the EU is going to need as many strategic partnerships for vital political and economic reasons as it can muster, especially in the volatile geography that Turkey happens to be in and which is of vital interest to the U.K. Turkey also needs this given its isolation due to the government’s mistakes.
If Boris Johnson becomes the leader of the Conservative party, as many expect, it will be amusing watching him wax lyrical about his Turkish connection and how important Turkey is, as he tries to dispel the sour atmosphere he created in ties between Ankara and London during his Brexit campaign.
As matters stand, that campaign told us little about Turkey, but spoke volumes about Britain.