Writing in the Daily Telegraph today, Charles Moore suggests that the Vote Leave campaign needs to work harder to rebut the concerns of prudent voters over the financial impact that Brexit might have on them. He also notes the challenge of winning over another section of the electorate:
“The unfocused but vaguely pro-European young, who don’t know what the EU is but think it might be racist to vote against it.”
A divisive advertising campaign this week from Operation Black Vote featuring a bullying young white skinhead berating an elderly Asian lady was designed to push the message that a vote to remain, in order to defeat the racists, is the high minded respectable option.
Yet this portrayal of the choice is at odds with reality.
As Iain Duncan Smith, writing in The Times(£) this morning says:
“After leaving the EU, we will be able to assess who we welcome to this country based on whether they have skills the economy needs or if they are genuinely fleeing persecution. A talented young engineer should not find it nearly impossible to take up a job in Britain just because she has a Malaysian passport rather than a Latvian one. The current unsustainable situation is not openness, it is eurocentric insularity.”
Our current immigration policy is discriminatory. Anyone can come in from the EU. For those from the rest of the world it is much more restrictive. To call the existing policy racist would be an exaggeration. There are plenty of EU citizens from ethnic minorities. There are also plenty of white people in the rest of the world who are discriminated against – from Australia and the United States and so on. Nevertheless overall it is pretty obvious. The open door largely applies to those with white skin. The restrictions largely apply to those with brown, black or yellow skin.
Inevitably the pressure of EU immigration makes us a more hard-hearted nation when it comes to giving sanctuary to refugees.
Let us suppose we were an independent nation state with control of our own borders and that we were applying to join the European Union. Instead of immigration based on merit, we would instead be signing up to a policy that allowed everyone in from the EU and tightened controls on the rest of world to make this viable. For instance, those from France could be joined by as many of their relatives as they liked, but those who had settled here from India or Jamaica would have such entitlements reduced. How would such a proposal measure up with an Equalities Impact Assessment?
This week we have seen politicians of both sides in the referendum debate interviewed about the 333,000 net migration figure to the UK last year, including EU-only net migration of 184,000. Is the figure too high? If so, what figure should it be? The point that was missed was the criteria for immigration. If we were an independent nation then the Government could apply policies that would lead to higher or lower immigration – that would become a democratic choice. But I would certainly hope it would be non-discriminatory. It would depend not on where people are from, but on what they have to offer. Those without criminal records could be excluded. But those with the skills and work ethic that mean they wish to succeed by living here, and would help us to succeed too, would be welcomed in. There could be more generosity towards refugees.
Controlling our own borders would mean an immigration policy that judged applicants not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.