News / Two and a half years on, social divisions behind Brexit vote remain unaddressed

Two and a half years on, social divisions behind Brexit vote remain unaddressed


The Faith & Belief Forum

28 / 01 / 19

Phil Champain, Director of the Faith & Belief Forum

When the result of the EU referendum was announced, on 24 June 2016, I blogged under the heading The EU referendum has exposed divisions that need fresh responses. I argued that our leaders and politics are seemingly unable hold together the idea that our different interests can best be met through carefully considered collaboration rather than through fear-stoked division.’ Two and a half years down the line it seems little has changed.

Jonathan Friedland engagingly points out the tendency of Brexit to ‘suck all available oxygen unto itself, to drain resources that might otherwise have gone elsewhere.’ He is right to point out how Brexit has distracted us from the impact of climate change, China’s shocking treatment of a million Uighur Muslims, the war in Syria and the humanitarian disaster in Yemen. We should add nevertheless, the importance of tackling growing inequality, poverty and social injustice in the UK, exposed by the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty in November, since these are issues that combine with others to make up the complex motivations for the Brexit mess we are currently in.

Sorting out the mess must surely necessitate addressing the underlying causes. They remain decoupled, with any attempts to discuss the latter shrouded in ideological arguments that threaten to further undermine our collective capacities to build a better, fairer and more inclusive society. Creating the space to legitimise the importance of tackling the economic and social anxieties and inequalities underpinning Brexit is arguably not only part of the process of finding the best way to exit the EU, but of building a cohesive society in its aftermath.

Brexit will continue to dominate for months to come, that much is certain. It is also certain that its causes and consequences will continue to engage organisations like ours for years to come. In March, the month the UK is due to leave the EU, we begin a research project with the British Academy to explore in more detail the contribution of interfaith relations to broader notions of social cohesion and integration.

Recognising a deficit in the place of interfaith relations in the British Academy’s wider study of cohesive societies the Faith & Belief Forum will collaborate in producing a companion review. This will help clarify the relationship between interfaith and social cohesion and suggest ways in which those working in each field can better collaborate for a fairer and more integrated society. Good timing you might say.

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