The British nation came into existence only a few decades after World War II. Until then, Britain’s identity was global, tied to its empire. Britain only became a nation in the post-war years. With the sale of national industries and the centralization of London, Britain has become merely a center for multinational corporations. These multinational corporations have had no significant social or civic concern. Brexit, in fact, sought to revive post-World War II Britain. The resignation of Mr. Johnson, who was the most serious supporter of Brexit, shows the destruction of this dream. Now it is time for new crises.
British nationality in World War II
World War II was not a national war for Britain. The war involved the British Empire. Thus British nationality did not make sense in the war. As The English Historical Review says, neither the idea that Britain ‘stood alone’ in 1940 nor that the British war was a ‘people’s war’, were at all common during the Second World War. If anything was thought to be ‘alone’, it was the empire. However, the more common view was that the empire always had allies. Historians have recently recognised that, for the United Kingdom, the Second World War was an imperial and international conflict, not a national war.
End of World War II
The Second World War pitted Germany, Japan, and Italy against Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The war engulfed the world in a firestorm of death and destruction (Facing History). By 1943, Britain had become a junior partner in an alliance dominated by the USA and the Soviet Union. Allied bombing from British bases and the 1944 D-Day landings hastened Germany’s drawn-out defeat. The bombing of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war in the Far East (English Heritage).
According to British Library, After World War Two, Britain was a country short of workers and needed to rebuild its weakened economy.
Decline of British power
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Britain had dominion over so many portions of the Earth. A famous saying was that “the sun never set on the British Empire.” Since the end of World War II, however, that sun has been steadily dipping toward the horizon (Politico).
According to IWM, the defeat of the British, Indian and Australian armies in Malaya (Malaysia) and Singapore by the Imperial Japanese Army in February 1942 foreshadowed the eventual end of the British Empire in the region. The subsequent loss of prestige for the empire permeated across Asia, as the defeat’s ramifications perceivably included the eventual end of the Indian Army. The Indian Army was the protector of British rule in South East and South Asia.
Labour and Welfare State
As English Heritage says, the 1945 election saw an unexpected Labour bringing with it nationalisation and Welfare State legislation. Post-war architects and planners were confident they could raise standards of living with housing projects in Britain’s cities and in new towns. Meanwhile, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (r.1952–present) prompted talk of a new Elizabethan age. In the 1950s and the 1960s, cars, washing machines, fridges, telephones and holidays all became increasingly affordable elements of everyday life. In 1957 Harold Macmillan could proclaim ‘prosperity such as we have never had … in the history of this country.
In the same line, the Guardian says that the outcome of the 1945 election was more than a sensation. It was a political earthquake. The voters wanted an end to wartime austerity and no return to prewar economic depression. They wanted change. With 47.7% of the vote, Labour secured a staggering 393 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives, with 39.7%, won just 210 seats. The new prime minister was Churchill’s deputy in the wartime coalition, Clement Attlee. “The Labour Party is a Socialist Party, and proud of it,”. Labour promised that it would take control of the economy and in particular of the manufacturing industry.
Brexit and identity
As says, for Johnson, Britain is the nation that stood alone in 1940. He believes Britain is a great nation, heir to Anglo-Saxon culture, and first in the world for soft power. Johnson compares the European project to Hitler’s attempt at territorial domination. He believes that, as in 1940, Britain can and should stand alone (LSE). Brexit is the victory of the nationalist and patriotic forces in Great Britain against the European Union (THE HINDU).
Brexit was not driven by social class but by cultural values and national identity. This is what new research by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and Stockholm University shows. The researchers found that the decision to vote Remain or Leave in the UK’s EU Referendum in 2016 appears to be down to people’s worldview. Their decision depends on whether they take a more cosmopolitan or relatively insular view of Britain’s place in Europe (UCL). Thus, the decision to vote Remain or Leave in the UK’s EU Referendum in 2016 is related to people’s sense of British nationality. Johnson’s support of Brexit was an attempt to save British nationality.
An extreme right political party in Greece has called Britain’s referendum result to leave the European Union a victory for nationalism across Europe (THE HINDU). Britain today is a poor and divided country. Parts of London and the southeast of England might be among the wealthiest places on the planet. However, swaths of northern England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are among Western Europe’s poorest. For Johnson, Brexit was an opportunity to fix this great divide. The government did not have freedoms within the European Union. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, Johnson offered voters the chance to “take back control” of their destiny. He offered the voters the chance to rebalance the country. However, Johnson’s government has not united the country (The Atlantic).
To sum up, Boris Johnson was a stronger supporter of Brexit. With his resignation from premiership, there seem to be no clear plans for reviving British nationality and the British economy. Therefore, new crises seem to be on the way.