BRISTOL: Editorial – What is British anyway?

Identity, as Brits, is a very integral part of society. We are proud to be British, for the most part, and are proud of where we come from.

Admittedly, there are plenty of things to be proud of in this country. As well as countless inventions, we have a Royal Family, awkwardness and a love of tea – as well as queuing and complaining. We would happily get in a queue to complain about things we have about the UK, but we very much love it really.

Much of the Brexit debate and argument to leave the European Union is entwined in our cultural and national identity. There’s a constant and underlying concern of being branded xenophobic or racist for being “English and proud”… Especially with the rise of the right wing on social media.

The concern on EU membership was mostly triggered by concerns of immigration, especially in the run up to the General Election in 2010. Eventually, the promise of an EU Referendum was put forward by Prime Minister David Cameron – and here we are. Net migration in 2010 was the highest on record at the time at 252,000 – but net migration in 2015 was 323,000. Net migration, the difference between people leaving and people arriving in the country is, quite clearly, a major issue for some in the UK.

One of the more common arguments against immigration is that “Britain is full”. There are many ways to dispel this quote: but according to a BBC report on the most detailed analysis ever conducted on Britain’s rural and urban landscape, only 2.27% of England’s landscape is built on. Elsewhere in the UK, this percentage lowers to less than 1%. Britain is, quite clearly, not full.

Another concern is that Britain is losing it’s “Britishness” and cultural identity. National pride does seem to be decreasing, but there’s still a great sense of unity: we mostly identify as British over English, for example.

But more people say that they are not proud to be British – with a main concern being other countries and their perception of us, especially on holiday. A concern is that we do not respect other cultures when we are on holiday, along with the ideas that we are loud and drink to excess.

A primary concern is that we are not as proud as we used to be, to be British. But we, as a nation, are descended from not just one place. St George, the Patron Saint of England, probably never even visited our shores (and nor did he slay a dragon). Our Royal Family are German, our cars and televisions are imported  from Japan, our takeaways are Chinese. We are descended from French conquerers, Scandinavian invaders, Irish workers and far, far more.

The truth is that we are a multicultural society, as are most Western and modernised countries. We welcome different people from different backgrounds who have different ideals. We are a United Kingdom. We are Great, Britain.

Jessica Allen



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