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Brexit and the Boomerang of Empire, with Dr Kojo Koram

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Brexit and the Boomerang of Empire

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In the midst of Britain’s ongoing political crisis, this paper reframes the Brexit question by beginning at edges of Britain’s relationship to its colonial outposts over the twentieth century. Whilst imperial romantics like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg offer a vision of an independent ‘Global Britain’ returning to its past glories, if we analyse the coming spectre of ‘Global Britain’ - reducing taxation laws, relaxing environmental and worker protections, relying on foreign corporate investment, erasing spending on public welfare, etc – we start to see similarities to the shock doctrine economic liberalisation that Britain’s former colonies in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean experienced during the post-colonial moment.

In Britain, an ongoing myopia regarding what Aimé Césaire famously called the ‘boomerang’ of empire is indebted to abiding allegiance a historical determinism that fixes Britain at the forefront of development. Having birthed industrial capitalism and parliamentary sovereignty, Britain still sees the ‘developing’ nations of its former colonial world following in its wake, along a linear path. As a result, political thought in Britain has largely ignored political and economic changes that visited the rest of the world, both during the British empire and in its aftermath; however this myopia has left us unprepared for the ‘boomerang’ of the changes which are now starting life within Britain itself.

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