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Brexit and the rise of the far-right

People with attitudes that are generally found amongst the far-right are much more likely to support Brexit than to oppose it. Some of them feel empowered by the 2016 EU Referendum result.


Delivered 3 October 2019. Posted 13 October 2019.

The Challenging Hate Forum is a relatively informal grouping of Manchester faith and community leaders convened by Manchester Cathedral and chaired by the Dean of Manchester Cathedral, the Very Reverend Rogers Govender MBE. I have attended for many years in my capacity of Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester.

I was asked to give a presentation about Brexit and the rise of the far-right. When planning my presentation, I set out to explain the rise, and to suggest some ways of addressing the polarisation in our society.

I recorded my 22-minute presentation, and it is below.


Presentation outline


How the presentation was recorded

My first presentation recording was done on the spur of the moment, just putting my iPhone 6 on the table and relying on its built in microphone. See my page Lecture: One Muslim’s Perspective on Religious Freedom.

Once I found recording presentations worthwhile, I purchased a high quality Sennheiser digital lapel microphone which plugs into the lightning port of my iPhone. That produces a much better recording.

The slides

I am happy to share the original PowerPoint slide presentation.

Source data

The data is from the British Social Attitudes Survey 34 which has a chapter on Brexit by John (now Sir John) Curtice.

I also recommend downloading the Technical Details document which explains how authoritarianism is measured etc.

A partial transcript of the question and answer session

The question and answer session was also recorded. However, I am not publishing the full audio recording for two main reasons:

  1. While the sound quality of my responses is very clear, the questioners were some distance from the microphone. Accordingly, in many cases their questions are almost inaudible.
  2. I respect the privacy of those asking the questions. I do not have their written consent to publish their recordings. In many cases, I do not even know who they were, so cannot seek permission.

Instead, I have listened to the Q&A session and, where I regard the questions as being worth sharing, have written down a condensed version of the questions. I have then published the audio of my answers.

1. Has the language used by some Remain supporters caused Leave supporters to become even more entrenched in their views, due to feeling that Remain supporters look down on them?

Below I have reproduced slide 11 which contains the education data.

Highest educational qualification


Leave %

Remain %







Recording of my 2-minute answer

2. Giles Coren wrote an article in The Times after the Brexit Referendum implying that old people should have their votes taken away because they would be dead soon. The questioner was an older Remain supporter, and even she felt unhappy about such comments. How do we talk about Brexit when it arouses such passions? Some people are genuinely scared to talk about it.

The 25 June 2016 article by Giles Coren was "Wrinklies have well and truly stitched us up."

I recounted my telling a very pro-Leave Conservative dining club about my being a European federalist!

Recording of my 3-minute answer

3. The Far Right seems to be motivated by a desire not to be ruled by others such as Brussels. How do we address this? How do we address identity issues?

Below I have reproduced slide 18 which contains the national identity data.

Voting by national identity


Leave %

English, not British


British, not English


Recording of my 1-minute answer

4 (a). There is a rise of the far right within the Indian Hindu community, which worried the questioner, though many deny that it is happening. What can we do about it?

4 (b). Also What do you recommend as a good quality newspaper?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

I also recommend reading my page Success tip: Read "The Economist."

5. The questioner pointed out the rise in antisemitism which took place several years before the Brexit referendum. To what extent is the rise of the far right due to economic factors?

Recording of my 2-minute answer

6. There has been a major loss of trust in institutions of all types. People no longer seem to know who to believe. How do we re-create this trust?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

7. Some supporters of Brexit have said in private that it is about “Getting the Muslims out of our country.” How do we address such attitudes?

I responded with a reminder about racism amongst British Asians.

Recording of my 40-second answer

8. What is your perception of the EU Referendum itself, and the perception that both sides lied during the campaign? Should there be a second referendum? We have the lowest unemployment for decades. Normally the far right rises during times of economic hardship. What is going on?

I began with the confession that in 2013 I thought David Cameron’s speech about the EU at Bloomberg was a good idea!

The Gov.UK website has the Bloomberg speech but minus political content. The full transcript including the political content is available elsewhere.

Recording of my 2-minute answer

9. How is this polarisation all going to end?

Recording of my 1-minute answer


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