Speaking at the National Police College in 1975, Sir Robert Mark, the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, reflected upon how the police function in liberal democratic societies is inevitably and ineluctably involved in managing the causes and consequences of disruptive social changes. His subject was how a relatively underpowered, unarmed police service can and should react to a rapidly and profoundly changing social order whilst maintaining fealty to the traditions of the UK model of policing by consent, given it is policing’s task to manage some of the frictions, problems and tensions that are generated.
Britain’s historic referendum decision to leave the European Union can be understood as part of a broader pattern of profound social trans-formation. This phenomenon, which we call ‘second wave deliberalisation’, is geared towards the rejection of liberal ethics and inclinations in favour of other norms and values. We are entering a historical moment where issues of culture and identity are reasserting themselves as engines of history, after a period where economic logics have been the pre-eminent influence upon geo-political patterns of development. Even though crime and security were not key considerations in the UK’s referendum campaign, it is, nevertheless, the role of the police to manage some of the causes and consequences of such disruptive social changes, whist maintaining fealty to the traditions of the UK model of policing by consent. This paper explores what Brexit may portend for policing and security by examining the political, economic and social implications of the vote. In doing so, we establish that Brexit is ultimately a symptom of wider and deeper trends feeding into the emergent ‘post-factual politics’.