One of the most oft-repeated Brexiter debating tactics when presented with facts and evidence was to brazenly misrepresent that evidence as the claim that "all brexiters are racist" followed by a furious display of synthetic outrage at the allegation that wasn't even made. People did it over and again in response to my articles, when the articles in question never mentioned the word "racist" at all, nor even addressed the mentality of Leave supporters in any way.
The Brexiter straw-man misrepresentation + synthetic outrage tactic was one of the most infuriating bad faith debating strategies I've ever come across, but it was highly successful because it fed into the ill-informed and tribalistic nature of the debate.
"Don't read this, they're insulting us" they shrieked.
Even when Will Self declared that "Not all Brexiters are racist, but most racists will vote Brexit" the synthetic outrage brigade showed up with their bizarre "how very dare he imply all Brexiters are racist" rants, even though the first five words of Self's statement said the exact opposite of what they were working themselves up into fits of outrage about.
The problem of course is that Will Self was absolutely right. Not all Brexiters were racist because people voted Brexit for a multitude of reasons (anti-establishment sentiments, the democracy argument, to give David Cameron a kick, naive wishful thinking, Lexit, because they believed the brazen lies that the hard-right Vote Leave mob told them ...), but it's undeniable that a significant percentage of of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit did so because they were either inherently xenophobic, or because they bought into the racist immigration fearmongering of extreme-right groups like UKIP and Britain First.
An ICM poll conducted after the vote for Brexit found that 23% of Brexit voters (some 4 million of the 17.4 million Leave voters) supported the proposition that EU citizens living in the UK should be expelled, and UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU should be forcibly repatriated to the UK!
Imagine how savagely authoritarian a person would have to be to think that the government should be expending its efforts on expelling workers who came to the UK perfectly legally, and on the forced repatriation of UK citizens who are working elsewhere in the EU, or enjoying their retirement there.
The forced repatriation of millions of people both ways across Europe would be a staggeringly illiberal policy. All of those millions of people moved to other countries perfectly legally, so their forced repatriation would be like a breach of contract.
It's impossible to ignore the fascist undertones of widespread support for forced repatriation. Before Adolf Hitler set about exterminating European Jews he started off hoping to expel them from the Third Reich. After the Second World War the Charter of the Nuremberg Trials declared the forced deportation of civilians to be both a war crime and a crime against humanity.
The UK isn't at war with the EU so it would be hard to make the case that the forced expulsion of EU citizens from the UK should be considered a war crime (although it's not beyond the bounds of reason that the adoption of such a fascistic policy could be considered a declaration of war by other EU member states) but there is certainly precedent for it to be considered a crime against humanity.
23% of Brexiters actually support the introduction of policies that would be crimes against humanity!
Not only is the idea of forced repatriation staggeringly illiberal to the point of fascism, it's also completely economically unjustifiable, especially from a UK perspective. The vast majority of EU migrants move to the UK to work (don't believe the Tory lies about EU citizens coming over here just to claim benefits, because on average they are far less likely to claim unemployment benefits than UK citizens), while huge numbers of UK expats have moved elsewhere in Europe to enjoy their retirement.
The idea of beginning the expulsion of productive workers from the UK and the forced repatriation of British pensioners from places like Spain, Greece and the South of France is blatant economic insanity, but millions of Brexit voters actually think it would be a good idea.
Imagine the damage to countless British businesses if the government suddenly set about expelling their workers, many of them highly skilled and in whom their employers have invested time, money and effort in training. Are these expelled workers really going to be adequately replaced by a bunch of furious pensioners who have been dragged back against their will from their retirement on the Costa del Sol?
Expelling EU workers from the UK would be an economically unjustifiable legal minefield, and it would also cause huge protests. The idea that British people would just stand by as their friends, neighbours and/or co-workers are forcibly expelled from the UK by the government is abhorrent. I have friends from elsewhere in the EU and I'd defend them against a fascistic government trying to round them up and expel them from the UK, as I'm sure most other British people would too.
If expelling the EU workers in the UK would be a legal and economic nightmare that is highly likely to create a massive wave of public protest against the government, the idea of forced repatriation of UK citizens living elsewhere in Europe is even more ridiculous.
Germany is already considering offering dual nationality to British people who live and work in their country so that they can feel completely safe from the threat of forced repatriation, and other countries are likely to follow suit in order to make sure that they can keep hold of their, often highly skilled, UK immigrants.
If the UK were to scrap the human rights of its residents (as Tory leadership favourite Theresa May has been threatening for years) and begin the forced expulsion of EU migrant workers, I'm pretty sure that British workers and retirees living elsewhere in Europe would be extremely disinclined to go back to a country that is rapidly descending into a fascistic hell hole, and that they would have grounds for claiming political asylum in their host nations.
So how exactly do the millions of Brexiters who support the policy of forced repatriation of Brits living elsewhere in the EU envisage the UK government forcing these people back to the UK? Kidnap squads paid for at the taxpayers' expense?
The 23% of Brexiters who support the forced repatriation of millions of people both ways across Europe by no means represent all of the racist and xenophobic Brexiters because it's perfectly possible to be suffer anti-immigrant bigotry but accept the complete unworkability of forcing UK citizens living elsewhere in Europe to come back to the UK.
The percentage of bigoted Brexit supporters is likely to be significantly higher than 23%, because the 23% who support forced repatriation are clearly for the extreme-right fringe who actually support Naziesque political policies.
Whatever the case, the 23% of Brexiters from the lunatic right-wing fringe were more than enough to swing the vote in favour of Brexit. The difference between Leave and Remain was 1.4 million. The ICM poll result shows that some four million Brexiters were so savagely xenophobic and right-wing that they declared support for the blatantly fascistic policy of forced repatriation.
As I said at the beginning, not all Brexit voters were shockingly right-wing xenophobes, but the sheer number of bigoted people who support fascistic policies like forced repatriation who supported Brexit clearly and undeniably carried the vote for the Leave campaign, which is a pretty alarming fact to understand, no matter which side of the referendum debate you were on.
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