The immigration debate was at the heart of the Brexit referendum. While the leave argument held over stronger in the end, both sides of the argument have some valid points. Here, Cashfloat, a payday loans direct lender, unpicks the assumptions and arguments of both sides of the argument. A major influence, like in most heated debates was the media. Cashfloat looks at what the media says and compares it to the real facts. Here you have it, the truth about immigration.
Since the second world war, there has been a massive influx of immigrants to the UK. There are both positive and negative aspects of mass immigration. When the arguments were raging during the EU referendum debate, this was one of the most influential aspects that led to the result for Brexit.
A Short History Of Modern Immigration
The immigrants who came to the UK after world war two were refugees from areas that had become Soviet controlled, including many Ukrainians and Polish people. When India became independent in 1947, there was also an influx of people who came to the UK. These people were welcomed by the government of the time, as there was a shortage of workers.
In the late 1950s, there were many Hungarians who left their country after the failed revolution. When Idi Amin took charge in Uganda, he expelled the Indians. Many came to the UK for sanctuary and a new life.
During the 1980s there was another surge in immigration, mainly, refugees from war zones like Somalia. Similarly, the Balkans wars resulted in another surge. However, some of these numbers have been exaggerated. The UK has always welcomed refugees, but when it comes to economic migrants, it seems as though it is a different matter.
Immigrants From The European Union
As a member of the EU, the UK adhered to the four tenets of freedom. These are freedom of movement for capital, goods, services and people. The freedom of movement has allowed many people to make a better life in an EU country. When the EU saw an expansion in 2004, many people in the UK started to be worried about the amount of Eastern Europeans who wanted to migrate to the UK to improve their lives and that of their families.
Thus started a lot of scaremongering in the tabloids about an influx of migrants. They claimed that they would be a drain on the National Health Service and other public services and that would work for less wages than those demanded by the British.
The concern about mass EU migration to the UK has rumbled on for many years. Eventually, during the EU referendum campaign, it became a major issue. It is highly likely that this debate was one of the largest influencers on the result of the vote.
One of the most negative aspects that the Brexit campaigners relied upon was making voters feel insecure. While the amount of EU immigrants has had very little effect upon the public purse, it is important to remember that an individual experience matters more than the pronouncements of experts.
So, anyone who has lost their job is going to feel disillusioned and disenfranchised even if the overall unemployment figures are down. Certainly, many low paid workers feel that their chances of a wage rise have been affected by the large number of immigrant workers who, they believe, will work for less.
Effects On Public Services
The term ‘health tourism’ has been used to describe people who come to the UK and make use of the NHS. This was another argument used to fire up those people who were unhappy before the referendum.
There is no doubt that in some areas the NHS has been stretched. This is usually in inner city areas where there has been a large amount of immigration. So, it is easy to see how voters would be inclined to vote for Brexit due to a lack of services because of large-scale immigration. And, if your child was refused a place at a local school because of a lack of places, it is understandable that you would also vote to leave the EU.
Before The Referendum
Figures published before the referendum showed that immigrants from the EU had reached the highest figures ever. Some 2.1 million immigrants were living and working in the UK. EU migrants accounted for some 6.8% of the workforce. But were they responsible for taking away jobs from the British?
Ian Duncan Smith stated explicitly that immigration to the UK was out of control and that the unemployed and those on low pay were being forced to compete with migrants who would accept lower wages. Therefore, low paid workers began to feel let down and wanted to implement a change that they felt would be good for themselves and their families.
The fact that a migrant has taken a job does not mean that a British worker cannot get another one. Figures from the Inland Revenue show that migrants do pay their taxes and do help to create jobs and not just take them. In fact, some migrants contribute to grow the economy. However, many voters still felt worried about the future of their careers.
Additionally, it is possible that many voters felt that immigrants are low skilled people looking for a low wage. While this is true in some cases, there are also a large number of young graduates who often have a job lined up before they decide to move to the UK.
One of the other side of the immigration debate, arguments against mass immigration that was brought to the front of the Brexit debate. This side argues that immigrants are the cause of the severe housing shortage in the UK.
The flip side to this argument is that immigrants tend to live in households with more people. They also are more likely to rent from the private sector and not rely on social housing.
The perception amongst many voters was that immigrants were at the head of the queue for council homes. The Daily Mail headline stated that ‘half of all social housing’ went to people who had moved from abroad.
However, other figures show that at that time it was 8.9% and that has now risen to 9%. A far cry from the 50% that was so adamantly stated.
Anyone From The EU Can Come To Live In The UK
While it is true that in theory, anyone from the EU could come to live in the UK, it is also true that only 3% of EU citizens live outside of their home country. Currently, the UK can limit immigration from other countries but it cannot stop EU citizens coming to live here.
What the government can do is send back those who are unable to support themselves. Although this was one of the remain camp’s arguments, it did not hold sway over the British public who were increasingly worried by the potential of millions of migrants.
EU Migrants Put More Into The Economy Than They Take Out
This fact is true with most migrants paying their taxes and contributing towards the upkeep of schools, the NHS and many other public services. However, the other side is that migrants also tire the economy by taking jobs without creating more.
The Economy Will Take A Downturn
So far the evidence is that this assertion is true. The value of sterling has tanked, and government borrowing looks set to increase as the Chancellor tries to steady the economic ship.
The EU Is Not Value For Money
One of the most vaunted arguments about leaving the EU was that it costs £350 million per week. The argued that this money could be spent on the NHS. In fact, half of that sum is returned via the special rebate and funding for projects in the UK. Furthermore, it has now been clarified that the NHS will not receive more funding.
Figures produced for 2015 show that the UK contributed around £250 million per week with about £80 million being returned in grants and subsidies.
How Will This Change After Brexit
The campaigners for Brexit made much of the fact that the UK should take back control of its borders. What this means, in reality, is not yet clear. Will the UK demand a visa for entrants to the UK or will it initiate a type of agreement with the EU so that life does not become more difficult for travellers?
Brexiteers are confident that taking back control means limiting immigration to some tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands.
Some Conclusions About the UK Immigration Debate
As Theresa May and her ministers grapple with the most important changes to the UK society for two generations, the immigration debate appears to be at the heart of the matter. While the immigration policy is yet to be determined, it is very difficult to truly determine which side is correct. Both the leave and the remain have some very compelling arguments. But, the fact is that the UK is set to leave the UK whether we like it or not.
EU officials are adamant that the UK cannot be party to the single market without freedom of movement. But, the UK people voted for a stop to wholesale immigration. It remains to be seen how these two opposing interests can be accommodated.