By Payman Yazdani

The discourse underlying Brexit has been truly emotive: expert  

July 11, 2016

TEHRAN - Head of the Iran center at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies says “the discourse underlying Brexit has been a truly emotive one.”

In an interview with the Tehran Times, Arshin Adib-Moghaddam says, “For the moment it is the populists and reactionaries who are marching on.”  
The following is the text of the interview:
Q: Considering the grave consequences of Brexit, why did Britain decide to hold a referendum on the issue?
A: The current Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron promised a referendum when he was elected in 2005. He made the promise in order to appeal to the Eurosceptics in the Conservative party and to appeal to a wider range of voters who sympathised with the anti-European UKIP party. So Cameron became hostage to fortune. It is ironic that he was voted into office on the back of his promise to hold the referendum and that the outcome sealed his fate. Despite of his solid record in office, he comes out as a tragic figure in this Orwellian play. 
Q: Will the consequences of Brexit be short or will they last long?  
A: The short term consequences are already apparent. More racism in England, major companies are moving their headquarters away to mainland Europe, the UK government is in crisis and the economy is stagnating. Moreover, the image of Britain has been seriously tarnished abroad. In an age of global connections and networks, a majority of the voting British population has voted to be in confinement. The long term effects of such politics of exclusion will be felt throughout society. 

“Despite of his solid record in office, Cameron comes out as a tragic figure in this Orwellian play.” ​
Q:  Some claim that contrary to the Obama administration’s declared opposition to Brexit  the United States will benefit from it in the long run. What is your view?
A: Obama was explicitly against Brexit. A right-wing politician such as Donald Trump is in support. I am in no doubt that Trump will push for greater integration between the UK and the USA, in all fields. The events are in flux, and it all depends on the two elections in the USA and the UK. But for the moment it is the populists and reactionaries who are marching on.  As Charles Bukowski once said: "The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” 
Q: Some say that the political systems that emerged after the Second World War have not been functioning well. Do you agree with such a view?
A: I don't think we have to be fatalistic. But I have argued in my recent books that there is something seriously wrong with the Westphalian nation-state system. My current book project looks into the ways nation-states sustain order through what I call "psychonationalist" mechanisms which are aimed at our sense of identity and cognition about self and other. I think the Brexit campaign is a perfect example for such psychonationalist mechanisms at work. Politicians such as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage used populist themes in order to entice emotions, primarily against immigration by the latter, and in former of a British utopia by the former. The discourse underlying Brexit has been a truly emotive one, almost hysterical which is why it triggered a tragedy. It was certainly not rational in the sense that staying out of the EU is not in the national interest of the United Kingdom. The crux of my argument is that psychonationalism does not work which is why nation-states have proven to be challenged, even in Europe. Nation-states need to be revised as organising principles in world politics. I have argued with reference to West Asia and North Africa, that this reimagination of geography and region-ness requires intellectual leadership and political audacity. Alas, both are currently lacking.
 

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