By Liam McCaffrey
Not everyone voted ‘Leave’ because they have a conservative approach to immigration, but, if they did, then the result may let them down. A powerful motivator for some favouring the ‘Leave’ campaign was that it was the silver bullet for mass immigration. However, it might not be that easy, after all.
The first thing that must be said is that if you are concerned about immigration, you are not wrong to share your fears. There are good reasons to be scared right now. There is mass disruption in the Middle East and Africa that is displacing millions of people who desperately need asylum. That’s not even taking into consideration those who quite rightly want to move to the UK to give themselves greater economic opportunity. As it stands, there is a net figure of migrants coming into the UK each year that is roughly equivalent with the population of Newcastle. This is something to worry about.
Why should we worry? A lot of people are worried that we are importing terror. Now, the evidence from Islamist attacks in Europe over the past 18 months indicates that this worry is substantiated with some facts. After all, many of the attackers held European passports. That, however, is perhaps not our greatest worry. We also have matters of compassion to concern ourselves with.
Our primary goal should not be the migration of people from their homelands to foreign countries; our goal should be to offer the tools necessary to stabilise their regions. By simply encouraging migration and not having a coherent multilateral solution to bringing peace to these people’s homelands, we are stepping further away from the potential reality of a more peaceful world.
You should be concerned about immigration, if at least for humanitarian reasons. Whatever your concerns are, this step may not take you any closer to ameliorating them. The Australian-style Points Based System that the ‘Leave’ campaign have been advertising has not painted a perfect picture for Australians. The Australian immigration policy didn’t prevent the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis and it has not prevented immigration at large. It was only a couple of months ago that former Australian Prime Minister Bob Carr called for immigration to be cut by 50% because it had reached a “third-world style population growth rate.” And even if Australian-style immigration policy was the solution, we seem far from it.
As we move into the more practical stage of the Brexit project, we are hearing uncertainty again and again about the possibility of reaching an agreement which invests immigration control domestically. At this stage, it is unclear whether or not we will be required to accommodate free movement of people as a non-member of the EU. So we cannot guarantee that immigration will fall as a feature of the Brexit dream.
While we step down from the centre stage of the world and go it alone, we can no doubt expect a withdrawal from a Blairite neo-conservative foreign policy. While our participation in wars in the Middle East is no doubt still morally sensitive, it seems that we must at least finish what we started and do what it takes to stablilise the region. This Brexit, however, takes us one step further away from that possibility.
The referendum has shown that Britain doesn’t want to invest money in the EU to see it divested to poorer countries. Britain doesn’t want to open its doors to people fleeing uprisings and violence and Britain certainly doesn’t want to spend money on another war. The Brexit is a clear message that Britain wants to look after itself before it looks after others.
I hope Brexit was the right decision but I fear it was not. There is just a chance that the utopia promised in the Brexit campaign will not be realised. There is no silver bullet to the problems that Britain faces. But in Brexiting, Britain might have shot itself in the foot. Perhaps Britain will start looking after itself, but only to nurse itself back to health after this terrible accident.