This is not an article about all the EU referendum specifics. There is so much out there about that, I decided I wouldn’t subject you to anymore. Although, for the record, I will be voting Remain. There are so many intricacies to the debate, but my decision has genuinely come down to the fact that we (and I mean the 99%) are fucked either way, but at least the Remain camp will provide us with some lube.
What I want to talk about is anti-immigration sentiment and the fact that, however people attempt to dress it up, it is just plain racist (and thus, silly and ignorant). Anti-immigration has been a huge part of the EU debate, as well as the 2015 general election, due to UKIP – actually, the reason we’re even having this (actually rather reckless) referendum in the first place is due to them and their xenophobic ways. What is even more ridiculous about this, is that there will not be much of an impact on immigration even if we do Leave – a lot of our migrants are non-EU, for a start. Certainly not to the level that liars such as Farage (husband to a German), Boris (husband to a woman of half Indian Sikh descent), and The Daily Express are banging on about. But many, perhaps most, of the Leave voters will be voting for that reason. Scary, indeed.
It has been well documented that immigrants give more to a country than they take away from it, in the fact that they spend their taxes, their wages, and their talent within the country they have settled. Immigration did not cause the financial crisis, the job losses in the public sector, or the housing issues – you can blame those things on bankers, right wing politics, and greedy developers. Why people – many of which are good people with genuine concerns – keep falling for this age-old lie, baffles me. The likes of the Express’s thirty-two immigrant bashing front pages in a row and the strong grip that right wing media has on the UK’s working class fuels the ignorance, sure, but the level of hatred still surprises me. There is a difference between a person who, fundamentally, believes one race is better than another and people who have been manipulated into thinking immigrants are the reason for the country’s issues. This makes non-racists spew filthy racist views. Does that, then, simply make them racists? Deep down, no. On the surface, yes. Fear and ignorance has always been a toxic combination.
I know that facts are a scary prospect for the intolerant, but here we go: Immigrants are less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits or to live in social housing. Between 1995 and 2011 European immigrants endowed the UK labour market with human capital that would have cost £14 billion if it were produced through the British education system; for non-European immigrants it was more than £35 billion. Around 10% of all migrants are students (so temporary), and immigrants are always over-represented in the very high-skilled (which many of us are not qualified for) and very low-skilled (which many of us will not do) occupations.
Those who came to the UK after 1999, rather than being a drain on the UK’s fiscal system, have made substantial net contributions to its public finances. There is no evidence that EU migrants affect the labour market performance of native-born workers.
People will come up for excuses for why anti-immigration (perhaps more tamely named, ‘controlled immigration’) is not racist, with excuses alluding to fears that our poor little island will sink into the sea once we go over seventy million residents (stupid foreign fatties; I presume the approximately 5.5 million UK emigrants have a better BMI) and that they cause a strain on our services.
Immigrants are not the reason the NHS is going to crumble – the Tory government looking to turn it into a business and unpaid taxes from large corporations are. Not only is a substantial percentage of the NHS staff foreign born – to be specific, 10% of doctors and 4% of nurses in the NHS are from the EU and even more are from outside it – but immigrants are on average younger and in work, so they will, in general, use fewer public services and contribute tax revenue; this is particularly true with EU immigrants and also with recent arrivals from outside the EU. The chief executive of NHS England has said that their contribution outweighs the impact on services. BECAUSE IT IS FUCKING TRUE. Jesus.
Of course there are exceptions and loop holes that are capitalised on, but that is the case with natives too (and actually way more common of a large corporation) – most of us don’t commit benefit fraud and most of us pay their taxes; some of us do not. This goes for immigrants too. Because, and I want to make this clear (somehow it still isn’t really universally accepted), humans are ALL THE FUCKING SAME. Britain has scroungers, hard workers, murderers, charity workers, people who talk in the cinema, left wingers, right wingers, the tolerant, and the intolerant. And, you know what – Poland has scroungers, hard workers, murderers, charity workers, people who talk in the cinema, left wingers, right wingers, the tolerant, and the intolerant. As does Bulgaria, and Spain, and Thailand, and FUCKING EVERYWHERE. No doubt, all at an extremely similar percentage.
But let’s push these arguments aside for a minute; let’s imagine that immigration was totes bad for Great Britain. I mean, let’s imagine one of the worst case scenarios; we will be flooded with terrorists. I understand the self-interest – I’d prefer a guy to blow themselves up well away from my son, my family, friends, and of course, my good self, but if we were to think logically here (God forbid), why would it be so bloody great if Britain had successfully defended itself from a bomb, if just as many people died from that same bomb in France instead; or one of those other countries full of brown people?
The great cartoon by Simon Kneebone at the top of the page is a very concise way of explaining the illogical way in which the majority of people – to varying degrees of course – see the world. All these borders drawn (and redrawn and redrawn and redrawn) in blood over the centuries has given us this, quite frankly ridiculous, belief that being born within one of these borders actually means anything. There’s no doubt that I count myself lucky for being born in England, rather than Syria, or Russia, or (shudder) the USA, but it doesn’t mean we should stand along the white cliffs of Dover, sticking our middle fingers up and shouting, “Better luck with your birthplace when you’re reincarnated, dickheads!” To be fair, we do often try our best to speed this process up by dropping large amounts of explosives on many of them.
Another thing that has always baffled me about anti-immigration – where is the line drawn? Do we just have to accept the ones who have already got in, while we quickly pull the drawbridge up? Or should every non-British person be chucked out? Or maybe every British human born with non-British parents or grandparents? I mean, I don’t know – what about everyone descended from those Viking folk. Everyone in Britain prior to their invasions has more right to Britishness, right? Oh, but wait, Germanic tribes conquered parts of Britain didn’t they? So anyone descended from the people before that can stay. Oh, silly me, the Italians! So, right, whoever has no Scandinavian, German, or Roman blood can stay. Whoa, wait – didn’t humans begin in Africa? Right – everyone – out! Everyone in the world needs to live in Africa!
We have such an idealised notion of what it is to be British, but we have such a bastard heritage, I don’t understand what it is really supposed to be. Imperialistic lovers of bulldogs, cricket, and the Queen? If so, have they been taken away from us? Or are there imminent plans to do so?
I believe in the completely free movement of people, because anything less than that, just does not make sense in a forward thinking and enlightened world, which we should be doing our very best to create – to at least look towards creating, for crying out loud.
But, for those who still haven’t got it, let’s break this down – not letting people into a country is denying a human being the right to do something based purely on where they were born; on their race. That sounds like racism to me. Perhaps I am simplifying things; but, then again, to me, it is simple. It is all these lies flying around in politics and the media that have given the illusion that it is a complicated matter.
I understand that these borders are already drawn out and the world’s inequality makes the third world look to the first for help (ugh, what a burden, having to help the less fortunate) and many people are selfish. I understand that people going in and out of countries need to be accounted for, and, of course, there is a limit to what certain countries can take on, but – honestly – the UK is no way bloody near that. I’d be in favour of no upper limit on immigration even if it wasn’t beneficial to the UK, but research shows that it is, so it is a moot point.
So, to bring it back to the referendum again. Vote Leave if you wish – I personally think it would be insane with our current government, but there are actually a few valid reasons for doing so – just don’t do it as some kind of promotion of your xenophobic idiocy. If you do, I’ll be throwing eggs at you, as well as Farage, on the twenty-third.
Immigration and the UK Labour Market – Jonathan Wadsworth
THE FISCAL EFFECTS OF IMMIGRATION TO THE UK – Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini
BBC NEWS, The Independent, The Daily Mail, Wikipedia, fullfact.org, migrationwatchuk.org
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/8269539@N04/26745871166″>”Flying the flag”</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>