Migration myths and unravelling of Brexit promises

The recent increase in hate crimes against Eastern Europeans in the UK has rightly been met with condemnation from across the political spectrum. Some dismiss this is a post-referendum spasm which will quickly ebb away. I fear that may not be the case and the Brexit decision may cause long-term damage to community cohesion and open a Pandora’s box of nasty populist politics. Let me explain why.

Brexiteer leaders – Farage, Fox, Johnson – made promises which are already unravelling. They told voters that leaving the EU would lead to better NHS services, improved job prospects and smaller class sizes. Those promises were largely based on migration myths which, unfortunately, many people believed.

Voters were promised that leaving the EU would lead to an improved NHS. Migrants were (wrongly) blamed as a drain on scarce NHS resources and that the UK cash contribution to the EU would be redirected to the NHS.

The reality is that the NHS is struggling because people are living longer, but often with multiple medical conditions and there has been a huge increase in conditions resulting from lifestyle choices. Neither of these is related to migration – these are home-grown problems – so leaving the EU will not resolve them and may make matters worse as it could discourage medical professionals from coming to work in the UK. 

As regards more money for the NHS, that promise has already been broken. The Government has stated it will instead guarantee existing EU funding for the science and agricultural sectors which means no cash injection for the NHS.

With regard to class sizes, as a former school governor for many years, I can say that has always been an issue. The problem is not migration, but underinvestment over many decades in the education system.

Brexiteers promised that less migration would mean more job opportunities for UK citizens. Yet, in reality it is Government underinvestment in education, training and apprenticeships – not migration – which has resulted in school leavers lacking the skills they need to secure employment.

Secondly, Brexiteers argued for a points based immigration system. The Prime Minister has rejected that, but offered no alternative. Whatever model is eventually proposed it is unlikely to meet the expectations of ultra-Brexiteers as the “who’s allowed in” list is likely to be long: from bankers to seasonal agricultural workers to qualified construction workers which the housing sector needs.

Ironically, if the Brexiteers’ promise that the UK economy will boom comes true then demand for migrants to meet that economic expansion will increase.

Also, any Brexit deal with the EU will almost certainly protect the residency rights of Brits living on the mainland as well as those from the mainland living in the UK.

Brexit migrant myths will be exposed, but will not disappear overnight. Failure to deliver Brexit promises will lead to a lot of angry voters which creates fertile ground for populist politicians even more extreme than Farage.

There is now a fight for the heart and soul of our nation. The Liberal Democrats must continue to be the standard bearers for an open, inclusive and multi-cultural society which is part of the EU. We need to be loud and proud about those values and not, as some have suggested, adopt a Brexit-light policy.

Knowingly or not, the Brexiteers have unleashed a xenophobic genie and it is our job to put it back in the bottle.

* James Lindsay is a Lib Dem member in Harborough.

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  • leave wasn’t a political party – it was a campaign to get us out of the EU. The 350m was a ploy to show how much was out of our direct control and an example of what could be spent. It’s the remain sides promises that are unravelling – the promise of deep recession, the promise of armageddon, the promise of economic ruin.

    As for migration – when out of the EU that’ll be up to our governments answerable to the British people to set out an economic plan with dovetailed migration targets and spending priorities.

    When will the liberal left get it in their thick heads – the British people live in a very diverse open-minded society NOW. Most people outside elite areas that don’t need any further help think that Britain is very diverse anyway – they think Britain needs to take a step back and see how it can include everybody in economic renewal.

    The Lib Dem economic model of `more unplanned migration means more wealth` is over. They need to set out an integrated economic and migration model. Telling people that ask for planned or lower migration that they’re racist doesn’t win friends and influence people. Unless a country controls its borders and migration it cannot control its economy, housing policies, spending priorities or indeed anything.

    Migration control is the first step to helping those at the bottom. It’s not a quick fix it’s a necessary first step.

  • The problem with advocates of mass migration is they refuse to see the obvious and that is it isn’t, never has been and never will be popular enough anywhere in the world to win votes from locals. And it is locals who decide elections.

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th Sep '16 - 11:49am

    Your basic problem Mr Lindsay is this. Do you think that we can have immigration running at net +300,000 per year for an indefinite period, with every possibility that that number could increase on further expansion. That is the only question here that matters.

    If you do, and you think that this is all no more than a matter of direction of resources then that’s fine. Albeit democracy demands that such a stance is tested at the ballot box.

    If not then surely you need to accept that the high levels of concern about immigration are more than, ‘myths.’ Yes, there probably is a distinction to be made between EU and non-EU (albeit not one liberals like talking about). Yes, it may be that some of the scepticism has motives I do not share. And yes, there will always need to be SOME immigration.

    In many ways I don’t really know what to tell you. To my mind the high levels of immigration that we see are a symptom of problems, not the cause. However ultimately what we are seeing in the EU is a hopelessly asymmetric arrangement. Look at the refugees/migrants – they voted with their feet. To say as much is simply to state the evidence of my own eyes. If 2m+ young UK unemployed could all head tomorrow to Poland/Estonia/Romania for wages/in-work benefits and housing then we’d have a 95% REMAIN majority now. Did any REMAINer have any vision for addressing the lack of reciprocity that many saw in our relationship with the EU? If so I have to admit I didn’t hear it.

    Maybe LEAVE did give promises that were overegged to say the least, certainly I recognise the frustrations from a liberal perspective. But if we had another referendum tomorrow, what would REMAIN be able to say that’s any different to the first referendum?

    They only way I could see anything shifting is for there to be Spain style restrictions on freedom of movement, but that looks unlikely.

  • Once upon a time, some members of an extreme sports club were in an aeroplane. They had their parachute packs strapped on. Some of them wanted to LEAVE their parachutes in the ‘plane arguing that they were a burden and restricted their freedom. Others wanted their parachute pack to REMAIN on, claiming that the parachutes were necessary to prevent disaster. It was a rule of this club that they all had to do the same thing so they took a vote and those that wanted to Leave the parachutes behind narrowly won.

    (A few of the most northerly members who wanted to their pack to Remain strapped on, considered forming their own club with their own rules. They had considered doing so recently but decided against it. Now it suddenly looked like time to reconsider that decision.)

    The club then made the jump from the aircraft. A few seconds into the fall, with the ground still far away, some Leave supporters shouted to their fellow club members, “Look, we told you everything would be fine. The scaremongering of those prophets of doom that told us that our packs should Remain on is unravelling. Nobody has been hurt; there has been no disaster, just like we told you all and now we have less restrictions.”

    And they didn’t live happily ever after. The End.

  • There was this extreme sports club and it had endless arguments about parachutes, expanded membership and spent its days pontificating about the dangers of not being in this club. One day the club held an election and it turned out most people didn’t want to be in the club anyway and had only stayed in the club because they were given no choice. As the former members of the club left to go to the pub , the Remaining members continued to ague about parachute amongst themselves even though there was no plane and no intention of continuing the jumps from that airfield.

  • Yellow Submarine 10th Sep '16 - 3:18pm

    It’s a very good article because it correctly calls the direction of travel of Leaver disillusion when absolutely nothing they were promised happens. Too many left liberals think they’ll have an epiphany and flock to supporting EU membership. They won’t. They’ll just continue blaming a Xenos and often in a more extreme manner. Either Brexit only happened in name, or Brexit was botched, or the evil EU will still be the problem after we’ve left, or we’ll internalise it and blame the millions of immigrants still here. To miss my metaphors the Jinn is out of the Bottle. The Leave Campaign was a post fact, explicitly Xenophobic and ethnonationalist rejection of culpability for our own choices as a society and denial of complexity. Exorcising the Jinn will be a huge task if indeed it’s possible at all. Fasten your seat belts.

  • There was this company making parachutes. And the Director of the company said to Liam Fox,.. ” You know what,… I’m not too fussed about making parachutes and exporting them”
    Liam Fox said,.. “But that’s just lazy, and would you rather indulge yourself in playing golf on a Friday ?”
    The director said, “maybe,.. but when I had to borrow money in the money market, at a positive rate of interest, I had to put that money to some productive use [ hire workers,.. make parachutes,.. sell parachutes], in order to repay lenders both principal and interest, plus generate a profit for our company.? ”
    “Not anymore.” he resumed. “I can borrow money at negative rates now.”
    “It’s not laziness” the parachute maker retorted,.. “Companies today, just don’t need to create any value with the money they borrow at negative rates. They just need to borrow. The loans themselves produce the profit.”
    “That’s madness”, responded Liam Fox,.. but he could see the logic. Inducing business into a ‘lazy slumber’ is not an EU/Brexit thing,.. it is a global financial thing. If you can borrow £1 billion at a negative interest rate paying back less in 10 or 20 years hence,.. then use that money to pay dividends,.. buy back your company shares,.. and put a little into your pension pot and annual bonus,.. Why not.? Why would you not do exactly that,..instead of faffing around making parachutes,.. then finish early and go play golf.?
    The parachute maker could see Liam was getting the bigger picture. The logic was obvious, and the Director concluded.
    “Liam,…Is not laziness, a natural, if crazy, end point of free money from thin air.? The whole economic planet is slowly turning unproductively Japanese, and I’m convinced that Keynesianism will, one day, be listed in the DSM IV, under Personality Disorders.?”

  • I know nothing about parachutes.
    However, I do know that those leading the ‘OUT’ campaign lied about the NHS, about millions of Turks flooding in, about a ‘points based’ immigration system, the UK being an ‘exporting power house held back by the EU’, etc…..

    The real question is, “Why do ‘Leavers’ still believe the BIG lie about the UK being better off outside the EU?”

  • Political parties, like families, need goodwill, tolerance, understanding, and a willingness to compromise in order to reach agreement – not to mention maintain harmony. With regard to the issue of immigration, it seems to me from reading the views expressed that there is at least a basic unanimity in that immigration is necessary and indeed desirable, but that a decree of control/management needs to be agreed. Essentially, the only argument seems on numbers, control, and implementation. This being the case, surely it is then a question of the leadership writing a policy document to lay before members (later the country). I am very aware that I’m making this all sound easy to the point of simplistic; that there are very many devils to be confronted in the detail. Never the less, I think on this issue, with bold leadership, LDs have an ideal opportunity to demonstrate how things could and should be done.

  • Expats.
    Because the EU is fundamentally an anti-democratic and anti-nation state would be super state (arguably an actual super state) which was foisted on Britain on 1/11/93 Because it has been pretty much a social and economic disaster from then until its entrenchment from the late 1990 through to 2007 or so.
    I find it hard to believe anyone who actually looks at EU and its multiple failings has anything positive to say for it at. Also talk about lying, I was told by Remain that the economy would collapse almost instantly. That if we voted leave that Osborn would have an emergency punishment budget and that Cameron would continue as PM until he was replaced by the unholy trio of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage who would immediately chase the brainwashed Brexiteers around with big stick or something as they sold the NHS to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
    So in short, I’m happy with the outcome and think that leaving the EU was an end in itself. So, yeah, still well chuffed.

  • Glenn 11th Sep ’16 – 12:09pm
    Expats…. Also talk about lying, I was told by Remain that the economy would collapse almost instantly……So in short, I’m happy with the outcome and think that leaving the EU was an end in itself. So, yeah, still well chuffed…..

    But, and it’s a big BUT, we haven’t left yet and to be frank we show no signs of a) Leaving and b) What we want to get when we do leave….

    As you are ‘well chuffed’ with what you see so far pehaps youmight explain a) and b) above because neither Davis,Fox nor Johnson seem to have much of a clue…

  • It’s a matter of point of view though isn’t it? As one of the densest populated wealthy countries in the world, many people feel adding more and more people isn’t the answer, especially when Britain’s answer to population growth is to build estates far away from where anyone works. There will always be another field to build on until there are none. Yes, build another school, but on the other hand why not just limit population growth? Overpopulation causes poverty, poor living standards, and risks food and energy security all over the world yet we wish it upon ourselves?

  • Expat’s
    I’m chuffed because I see leaving the EU as an end itself. Also it had the added bonus of ending the career of one of the worst PMs in history and thus to removing his equally incompetent chancellor. This despite the fact that, Remain’s leader, David Cameron, promised he would continue as PM no matter what the result was and Remain’s second in command, the heir apparent George Osborn, promised an emergency Budget if Leave won. The former resigned within hours. The latter was removed from office. Unlike anyone in the Leave camp both were in the highest positions of office and were both therefore completely, capable of delivering on their stated positions! This means they were not telling the truth. Also most of Remain were insistent that a leave vote would cause immediate economic collapse before article 50 was even triggered. Hasn’t happened.

  • Glenn 12th Sep ’16 – 3:57am…Expat’s
    I’m chuffed because I see leaving the EU as an end itself. . Also most of Remain were insistent that a leave vote would cause immediate economic collapse before article 50 was even triggered. Hasn’t happened….

    Ah, well…..I apologise for expecting you to give Davis, Fox and Johnson advice; you seem to have no more idea of “When, what and how” than they do…

    What I do know is that the £ has not recovered from the initial fall as “We wait and see” where ‘Brexit’ takes us…And that my bank sent me a letter informing me that they are halving the interest on my account; due to “The current uncertain situation” (a loss of £300 pa)…..I am also very concerned about my pensions and am awaiting a response to my enquiry on the subject…

  • James Lindsay 12th Sep '16 - 11:46am

    Interesting extract from The Guardian’s recent interview with UKIP MP Douglas Carswell…

    {Carswwell said] “Well, unless you want to become like North Korea, labour mobility is going to happen.” He neither expects nor wants Brexit to reduce immigration, and thinks that within 40 years, the current level of labour mobility in London will be UK-wide”.

    He argues that border controls will meet the expectations of those who voted to leave. I’m not convinced it will and what then?

    As I stated in my article there are a lot of people who thought voting to leave would mean fewer “foreigners” in the UK. If even the likes of Carswell think that’s nonsense those people are going to feel they have been misled not least when all the other promises – NHS, schools, housing etc – fail to materialise.

  • James Lindsey.
    The problem with Carswell’s statement is that it starts from a more or less laissez faire position that he feels is historically inevitable and ignores the possibility that the electorate will simply replace politicians they do not feel represent them with those they do feel represent them. The point is that there is no end of history because the world is not made up of people all wanting the same things and all headed in the same direction.

  • Perhaps it would be easier if they just stayed in their own countries and helped their own poor and needy and let us look after ours?

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