Observations on life

Should Britain exit the EU?

I guess the best answer is how the hell do I know and why should I care?

There is one reason I should care and you should too, but I will get to that in a minute.

When in Europe my fun thing to do is talk to average people about stuff I don’t understand  and want to learn about beyond the talking heads on TV who know less than I do.
This trip it is the Brexit from the EU so I’m asking cab drives, hotel workers and two proper ladies sitting next to us having high tea and anyone I can strike up a conversation with. I asked our driver from the airport too. He had a strong opinion, but he was from Sweden and lived in England. One cabby I asked about getting out said “fantastic” and then talked for ten minutes about all that was bad about immigrants driving up prices of housing. He also mentioned the only people in favor of staying the EU were the rich.  Another cabby was worried about what an exit would do to the economy, but was more worried about immigrants getting their undeserved “free” benefits.

So, what have I found out about Brexit?  Clearly it’s on everyone’s mind. Several people hadn’t  made up their mind how to vote, several were clearly in favor of exit.  All I talked to were frustrated with the information they were receiving. When I asked about the economic consequences people were confused. They often said “expert” economists had two different stories; worry about exit; don’t worry.

Everything I have read so far says further isolating Britain from the rest of Europe is not going to be a good thing for the British, but what do I know?

Now here is the part you should care about. Everyone I spoke with whether outright for Brexit or undecided mentioned immigration as their issue. Nobody talks about anything else. Their story is simple. They are fed up with the flood of immigrants from Europe and they are worried that it’s only a matter of time before the new immigrants find a way to cross the Channel in boats from France. Everyone I questioned said the same thing.

Those opposed to the EU said because of Britain’s very liberal social policies, any immigrant can arrive today and tomorrow apply for and start receiving “benefits” as they say which is another word for various forms of welfare, including that famous free health care. Right wing politicians are stoking anti-immigration fears. [NOTE BELOW]

imageDoes any of this anti-immigration rhetoric sound familiar? Does the fear of people getting free stuff bring any political rhetoric to mind? Does a desire for more government programs ring a bell?

Something is going wrong. Our global world is coming unraveled. Europe is again headed into factions and unity such as it was, is disappearing. The United States, once the shining example of welcoming immigrants has louder voices for isolationism. Immigrants to the US and other countries no longer come to be Americans, but to live in America … and there is a big difference, a very big difference.

America was different because of three words e pluribus unum. If we lose that, we lose everything. If Europe loses its experiment in unity, it will become the old Europe and even a basic knowledge of European history will tell you where that may lead.

PS. Surprisingly, or maybe not, the people I questioned also questioned me. “What do you think about Obama?”  You probably know the answer so I won’t elaborate. The British had one thing to say about Obama though; several thought he should mind his own business when it came to Brexit.

[Note] On my last day in London I asked another group of citizens about the EU. This time they were highly educated, higher income and well-traveled. They were opposed to the exit from the EU. They recognized the need for immigrants, they thought about the consequences of an exit both economic and personal as immigrant spouses of some citizens could be forced to leave the Country. They said next day immigrant benefits were not true, but rather to remain in the UK an immigrant must be earning a good income of £35,000 a year within five years of entry. 

How easy it appears to be for politicians to manipulate the under informed with scapegoating and misinformation. Sound familiar?

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10 replies »

  1. What seems to have gone unsaid in the discussion above about immigrants and resentment for taking advantage of welfare benefits is whether we are talking about LEGAL immigration as opposed to ILLEGAL. How can you fault working people whose taxes are paying for welfare benefits from being resentful of uninvited guests getting “on the dole.”

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    • In the case of the EU all immigrants from EU countries are legal. But you missed the real point. The belief that immigrants can come to England one day and get full benefits the next is not accurate. Plus immigrants must earn a certain income after five years or they must leave.

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  2. Exactly, what do you know? You don’t live in one of the world’s most crowded countries. You don’t recognise that ‘Europe’, ie the EU, wishes to abolish everything that is distinct about Britain: our legal system based on English Common Law, our currency, our immigration controls, our right to expect that immigrants will *assimilate*. But hey, carry on portraying Brexiteers as uneducated rednecks, why not?

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      • And your point is wrong, we are on the whole better educated about the world and our place within it. There are Leave campaigners within both the Labour movement and the Green movement, as well as those with Libertarian or Conservative views. Whatever you think of those involved the Leave campaign, regardless of where they are in the political spectrum, we do not have a Trump-like demagogue figure here.

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      • Because they are entitled to child benefit and housing benefit (though the latter goes straight to their landlord) if they are working. The ‘habitual residence’ test is clearly subjective. It strikes me that you consider yourself to be an expert on the UK’s status in the EU from your short stay here and the small sample of people whom you met. Oh and immigrants themselves do not drive up the price of housing, but the net effect of immigration does as formerly cheap housing gets bought up by slumlords. Whilst you are trying to draw a parallel with the US, there isn’t one, you have ample space and resources to house all the people who wish to live there. We have neither.

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  3. Your personal experiences surprised me on why so many countries are thinking about getting out of the EU. But it makes sense. I thought it was more of the policies being dictated from Brussels, kind of like how Washington dictates to the States. It took many decades and a civil war for the US central government to fulfill its roll of providing for common needs such as national defense, national currency, national commerce and a national road network to name a few.

    And you are right. When immigrants came to the US, they were leaving bad situations. They adopted their new country’s language and ways and became Americans. Again you are right that today immigrants come to live in America and do not want to become Americans. Political Correctness makes it wrong to even suggest that they speak English further dividing the common thread that helps hold America together. America is no longer the melting pot it once was.

    I now understand why the British are focus on immigration. Most countries in the EU are starting to lose their national identity due to policies and their costs coming down from the EU in order to be welcoming and tolerant of all those from member states and that has spilled over to the immigrants coming from non-member states. American states united in the common cause of freedom from the British. The European Union has yet to have that one giant unifying event. They probably never will either since NATO provides defense separately from the EU, the only attacks are economic and in all cases for any given time one country will do better than another and they will be left to foot the bill. The result will be resentment.

    Without any facts to back me up, in the US, I think those immigrants are willing to work for lower wages for those jobs that Americans do not want, driving down the wages. Our welfare system also allows lazy people to survive without working otherwise they would complete for those jobs. If the jobs were filled by Americans then the immigrants would not come to America because it would not be the land of opportunity.

    I also suspect that just like in the US that in the EU those immigrants who are willing to take a chance and leave their home country will do what it takes to get ahead to better themselves and their situation. Unskilled Americans often do not want to do what it takes to get ahead except wanting the minimum wage raised. If this is also true for the British, I can see where the fear of immigrants comes from. Unskilled labor still will not better themselves in order to keep the jobs out of the immigrants hands.

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