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18 Nov 2019, 21:26 HRS IST
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  • Brexit continues to divide opinions at Jaipur Lit fest

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18:53 HRS IST

By Sandeep Dahiya

Jaipur, Jan 21 (PTI)
A session on Brexit at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival saw historians and journalists giving differing perspectives on the move that saw Britain opting out of the European Union through a referendum.

The session saw journalist Jonathan Shainin's calling Brexit as the most divisive issue in Britain and the biggest splash in a wave of populism which started in India in 2014 with the election of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.

Historian Andrew Roberts termed the move as "more impressive" than the French Revolution because "no one died".

"I believe that democracy in the UK was being undermined by the EU, especially by the European Commission, which is unelected. There was a democratic deficit. Now we have taken back control of our laws and borders. We may make mistakes, but at least they are our mistakes," Roberts said.

Author A N Wilson also seemed in favour of Brexit, saying it would be a mistake to dismiss the decision as "irrational populism".

"The prime reason was economic. If you're a bricklayer or a plasterer in the UK, your wages have stagnated over the last 25 years, because we have imported cheap labour from Eastern Europe. If you speak to people outside London, they felt utterly rejected by the political class," Wilson said.

Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford, however, called Brexit a "utopian" idea.

"The Brexiters are naive utopians. They think that if Europe is once again a collection of independent nations, they will just trade peacefully. It's never happened in the past.

And if there is a war on the continent, the UK will be dragged back in," Garton said.

Historian Linda Colley highlighted the problems the UK needs to address which, she feels, are more important than focusing whether Brexit is good or not.

Colley said that the vote for Brexit stemmed from a long-standing "Euro scepticism" in Britain.

"There is a huge danger of destruction. The UK has a great many structural problems... economic, political, and organisational. There is danger that so much energy and treasure will be sucked up by Brexit and the long term issues will not be sorted out," she said.

"That is actually a problem that we need to address. It is not just whether the Brexit is good or bad but whether it will prevent other issues from being properly addressed and explored."

Economist Surjit Bhalla said that the globalisation and the rise of Asian economies had undermined incomes in the West, leading to a backlash.

"It's inevitable, and leaving the EU will not change that for Britain," he said.

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