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BREXIT D-DAY: Gateway To An Imperial Past?

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LONDON, Dec. 4, 2018 (Xinhua) -- A pro-Brexit supporter is seen outside the House of Commons in London, Britain, on Dec. 4, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May said the five day Brexit debate which started Tuesday evening in the House of Commons will set the course Britain takes for decades to come. Next Tuesday MPs will vote on whether to support or reject a deal agreed between May's government and the European Union on Britain's future relationship with Brussels. (Xinhua/Stephen Chung/IANS) by .
A pro-Brexit supporter

From a British South Asian perspective, the sad reality is that the D-Day commemoration is airbrushed like so many things in British history. A current example of this was the film ‘Dunkirk’ where the Imperial British Army and associated was withdrawing from France in haste, unable to fight off the German advance…writes Bharat Singh for Asian Lite News

BRUSSELS, Nov. 15, 2018 (Xinhua) -- European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier speaks at a press conference at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, Nov. 15, 2018. A European Council meeting is expected on Nov. 25 in order to "finalize and formalize the Brexit agreement," European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters Thursday. (Xinhua/Zheng Huansong/IANS) by .
European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier

The D-Day commemoration will be a moment for British to reminisce a time gone by, when Britain ruled the waves, had an Empire that spanned the globe, and an Imperial Army that reflected its span.

From a British South Asian perspective, the sad reality is that this commemoration is airbrushed like so many things in British history. A current example of this was the film ‘Dunkirk’ where the Imperial British Army and associated was withdrawing from France in haste, unable to fight off the German advance. Here despite the presence of the Indian Army Service Corps, none were depicted in the film. This may in part be due to the ignorance of the actors, scriptwriters and producers. Or having researched the background to the film in detail, this fact was conveniently airbrushed out.

(File Photo)

At the outset of World War 2 the British Indian Army numbered no more than 200,000. By the end of the war, this number had grown to 2.5 million, making it the largest conscript army in the world at that time. Their main role in the war in Europe was the attack from the South, in Italy. The main battle was that of Monte Cassino, a battle that Bernard Manning  famously denied had any involvement of troops from South Asia. In fact, this battle was the South European equivalent of the D-Day landings, which took place two weeks prior, and unlike Arnhem a success. Interestingly, a significant number of Youtube videos have failed to account for the presence of the British Indian Army, which numbered about 50,000 men with casualties of around 4,000.

Instead focussing on the involvement of the Americans and the British. However we have the BBC and Shahnaz Pakravan and her backroom team to thank for providing an insight into what the British Indian Army had contributed with their documentary ‘Southall to Casino’.

BELGIUM-BRUSSELS-EU-SUMMIT-BREXIT by .
British Prime Minister Theresa May

As we look forward, the Imperialists dream of Brexit shimmers on the horizon. But is it a dream, or is it a reality? Going by the account of the Brexiteers, the vote was won, therefore we should separate. As we prepare for the separation, the question arises as to what is the business plan? We are fully acquainted with the way the European market works. One of the most revered Conservative leaders, Margaret Thatcher, was positive about the EU. 70% of our business is done with the EU. Already we are seeing the potential impact with businesses facing tough market conditions e.g. British Steel, and car manufacturers potentially looking at relocating abroad, and local farmers finding it difficult to recruit workers for the annual harvest.

That said the world has changed, as has Britain’s navy, with the addition of two new aircraft carriers. With the change, there is a clear desire in some quarters, to do business with the rest of the world. Like a good cricket match, these would follow the WTO rules and allow Britain to potentially to reach the most vulnerable and minerally rich countries in the world. Made in Britain could be the new watchword as vulnerable economies are taken over and the Imperial dream re-ignited. Will we as British South Asians see an increase in segregated behaviour, a trait that has marked out the Empires of Europe in the last 300 years? Is this just nostalgia, or actually something that will evolve into a reality………Mr. Barnier, we shall see….