British Euroscepticism and Immigration VoxEurop
Brexit is a sensitive issue in Britain

The latest poll on YouGov shows a dramatic decline in the support for EU membership in Britain. The increased popularity of anti-immigration parties such as UKIP clearly shows that there is a problem, but will leaving the EU really solve it? Why are the non-EU immigration issues so ignored by British media?

Undoubtedly the most common reason among British people, who want to leave the EU, is the rising level of immigration. The European Union’s principle of free movement is often blamed for the high number of migrants and the lowering of the wages. However, looking at the levels of the National minimum wage since 2005, they actually keep rising every single year – slowly, but steadily (from £5.05/hour in 2005 to £6.50/hour in 2014). On immigration, Migrant Watch UK gives interesting statistical information: in the year ending March 2014, approximately 479 000 non-British immigrants had arrived. About 214 000 of them come from the EU, of which only a half from the EU15 (a.k.a. the “black sheep” including Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, etc.; all the countries that joined in 2004 or later). It turns out that only one fifth of the total net immigration comes from poorer EU countries in contrast to three fifths coming from non-EU countries. Financial times already announced that the UK accepts almost three times more migrants from outside the EU than any other member state.

“Racism” fear

Disproportionate amount of media agitate against Bulgarian and Romanian migrants in contrast to the little or no talk about the much higher amount of non-EU newcomers in Britain. As in other areas of life in the UK, the culture of “political correctness” leads to dangerous cases of neglect due to fears of racist accusations. Therefore, talking about South Asian immigrants would be deemed “racist”, while Eastern Europeans are easy and safe victims of media abuse just because of their white race background and the fact that they do not generally belong to any religious minorities. This culture of “political correctness” has been manifested in several cases so far, most notably the Rotherham child abuse scandal. 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. The crimes against them were largely unreported due to the fact that the majority of those behind the abuse were described as Asian, while the victims were young white girls. Needless to say, the laws on non-EU immigration as well as the internal policies of fear and discrimination with an opposite sign are certainly not imposed by the European Union.

Vox populi, vox deorum

Just about a week ago a parliamentary bill, which would allow an EU membership referendum by the end of 2017, collapsed largely because of the Liberal democrats, who refused to approve it. This action illustrates the reason behind the success of parties like UKIP. Immigration and Euroscepticism are important issues in the UK today and denying their existence is not a proper solution. If mainstream parties do not address these issues, other parties will. Banning people to express on whether they want to stay in the European Union or not is not only non-democratic, but it is making the problem bigger and worsening the reputation of the EU. People will not like the EU better if they are denied the right to express their opinion. If pro-euro supporters among businesses and politicians want to keep the UK in the EU, they need to present a clear argument about the advantages of being an EU member, not dismiss people’s questions and concerns. The Euroscepticism in Britain is caused mostly by misunderstanding and misconceptions of issues such as the case of immigration shown above. These misconceptions need to be explained and clarified, not ignored and nurtured.

Edited by: Lilit Mkrtchyan
Photo credits: VoxEurop