The House of Commons debate the Commonwealth in 2020. [photo: Parliament UK]The House of Commons debate the Commonwealth in 2020. [photo: Parliament UK]

‘A Divided Family: Race, the Commonwealth and Brexit’ by Eva Namusoke

Round Table 105/5 (Oct 2016), 463-76

As the UK leaves the European Union, we look back on the role played by the Commonwealth in the 2016 referendum campaign that led the UK to vote to leave by 52% to 48%, around the prevailing themes of race, immigration and identity.

In this article Eva Namusoke, a Kenyan academic and member of the Round Table‘s International Advisory Board, finds that the Commonwealth was used as a ‘campaign tool’ by the Leave campaign. Even though many Commonwealth leaders expressed support for the UK to remain within the EU,  ‘ethnic minority British citizens were sold a vision of a Commonwealth that reflected their own heritage’.  She explains that while Brexit would lead to a more relaxed immigration rules for Commonwealth countries, the focus was on the mostly white Commonwealth nations.

Namusoke suggests that ‘highly privileging majority white nations over the rest of the Commonwealth “family” under the guise of shared culture and history, risks deeply dividing the organisation along racial lines. Such ‘Old Commonwealth’ and ‘kith and kin’ themes threaten the declared values of the modern Commonwealth, she argues.

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