7. More on Immigration and Borders

18 10 2016

Brexit Blog 7:  More on the Problem of Immigration and Borders

Picking up on Racism & Immigration

Without doubt, although one of the main planks of the Leave side was to do with curbing immigration and having secure borders, this does in fact present us with difficult areas to work through. We started thinking about racism earlier on in these blogs but I believe we need to emphasise a crucial point in much of today’s public thinking and argument. Our earlier definition about racism spoke about feelings of superiority and inferiority. I suggested that it is not racist to merely speak of the differences between nationalities. Indeed, I would go on to suggest that we should relish and enjoy our differences. I believe we will lose something if we lose our differences.

I hinted at or suggested that some nationalities on main-land Europe, even though being part of the bigger body, resent influences trying to make them the same as others on the other side of adjoining borders. Perhaps they don’t realise that this must be the ultimate goal of those who would want one and only one Federation of Europe. If you really follow the argument through, different languages and different practices speak of division and division is the anathema of those working for one Europe.  Possibly it has been some sense of this feeling that has resulted in a majority vote for leaving the EU in Britain and is also being seen in (at present at least) vocal minority parties in some of the EU nations, as we noted in an earlier blog.

The Particular Problem of Assimilating into a Country

Now perhaps I may also pick up on one further thought that I missed in earlier writings. It is on the question of assimilation of people who come from abroad and want to be part of our community. Now maybe at some later date I will wax eloquent on some of what I believe are good features of this green and pleasant land but for the moment I think it is fair to suggest that if someone wants to come to our country to benefit from job opportunities or benefits generally they should also be asked to truly become part of this community as it already is. As commented before, I realise we have not done well in this respect in the past but it is never too late to start thinking about it.

Now note the wording there – ‘this community as it already is’. Now I accept that communities in a modern world are likely to be changing all the time but – and I believe there is a big area here for debate and discussion which has not yet happened – there are likely to be a number of ‘norms’ of the beliefs and lifestyles of any particular country which it may wish to hold on to and therefore it is reasonable to accept they want to take steps to hold onto.

A number of times over the past thirty years various Prime Ministers and their governments in the UK have warily approached this subject with talk of citizenship and the like. The USA, after all, requires this of immigrants wishing to become American citizens. Our own governments have been wary about this because most have not wished to link what appear to be moral issues with nationhood. Nevertheless, the recent referendum threw up the issue of feeling excluded or not being cared for by government, which some have suggested was at the root of the referendum result, certainly in the Midlands and the North.

In her closing speech at the recent Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister used the word fairness some sixteen times I believe in her speech. Now that is certainly an indicator that she has taken note of various polls and research papers about how people felt, but one might hope that it is more than a mere political knee-jerk reaction and might in fact be a sign of a nation that isn’t afraid to face moral issues, talk about them and do something about them. It has to start somewhere.

So how do you bring people into the country and help them assimilate into the existing community and accept its norms? An intriguing model for this can be seen when desiring to be a permanent resident of the Cayman Islands, known in films at least, for being a ‘tax haven’ south of Cuba.   Having lived there for eight years an application for permanent residency will involve the individual showing that he/she is, to put it in the simplest of terms, a benefit to the islands, by way of such things as having an occupation that benefits the islands, no doubt including education, experience and training that will benefit the islands, perhaps have local investments and certainly be financially stable, and be able to show they are the local community minded and are involved in activities that benefit the community.

Don’t laugh, I am not going to suggest those rules are applied to the UK because half the population, I suspect, would fail!  Nevertheless, it may not be unfair to ask would be immigrants who intend to stay here more than a set short period be asked to show some sort of similar intent. Speaking reasonable English would be a good start. Good in theory but perhaps difficult in practice – which is why we should be talking about these sorts of things when we are talking about immigration, and we need to acknowledge we have a lot of years to catch up!

General Problem of Border Restrictions

But back to the problem of borders.  There appear to be three particular problems that we, and Europe generally, are struggling with to do with borders. They are as follows:

  1. The problem of security

France and Belgium have demonstrated painfully over the last few years, the problem of keeping out terrorists when you have open borders. As much as there has been co-operation between security forces of different countries (and it would be a foolish continent that would exclude Britain from such cooperation in the future), it has clearly been inadequate.

The Leave side has seen control over immigrants from across the Channel as a means of making the country more secure, although very much more needs to be done even if there were stricter border checks. But we have a unique problem in the existence of Eire and Northern Ireland where traditionally border security has been relatively low key. Without fencing the entire border between the two countries, this is always going to be a problem area.

  1. The problem of a mobile work force

Much recent rhetoric has focused on the need – as declared by some employers at least – for there to be an open door policy for migrant workers. Recent proposals by the government sent out ripples of concern: “Amber Rudd, the home secretary, put forward plans for a visa-entry scheme for skilled migrants. Her plan would close the door to low-skilled migrants from the EU.” (The Times 17th Oct 2016).  Philip Hammond suggested that members of the Brexit cabinet committee should continue examining options and the media immediately leapt on apparent divisions.

But there is the dilemma over migrant workers. Do we

  1. Allow in only skilled workers
  2. Allow in some low-skilled workers who already have jobs to go to
  3. Allow in anyone regardless of work skills

In addition to these, despite living in a heavily technology- reinforced society, there is always the difficulty of keeping tabs on people who enter or seek to enter the country simply to visit family and friends, or even refugees who might be hear short-term. The fact that we have ghettos is not only a reminder that we have not assimilated people very well into our nation, but also that is has become very difficult to keep track of people who wish to stay hidden. No wonder the security forces constantly ask for more money to expand.

  1. The problem of trade barriers or trade tariffs

Here tariffs are taxes imposed on imports and have been traditionally used to control imports. Of course to do this we need to have agreements with other countries to whom we might wish to export otherwise they may retaliate an impose high taxes on our goods going into their countries. The idea of such taxes is simply to make the goods prohibitively expensive so they will not be bought. That helps our Balance of Trade (Imports versus Exports) but not if we have restricted our own exports as we have tried to limit imports.

And So…

Wherever you look at the issues pertaining to Brexit, there are questions needing answers and more often than not they do not appear easy questions, which means that those in power in the Government and the Civil Service will be working very intensely to work out what the questions are, as well as looking at what potential answers may be.

The issue is complicated by three significant factors

  • The other EU leaders, some worried more about the state of their own countries
  • The general world economy which will influence our economy regardless of Brexit,
  • Both sides – Leave and Remain – who will feel defensive or attacking, simply because it is ultra-clear that there are those who purport to have a voice in the country who want to sound off and influence the outcome, one way or the other.

This leaves one wanting to shout to shout to those within that last group

  • Shut up and let the powers that be get on with it without having to constantly fend off your rantings (media, parliament, nervy business, etc. etc.)
  • Be patient and allow them to have time to formulate questions and answers without being under pressure from you; you are hindering a good outcome!

And a final word. Remember, with all the focus on Brexit and the UK, there is a danger that we fail to see the economic and financial turmoils still gently simmering in a number of the EU countries.





6. The Problem of Immigration and Borders

12 10 2016

Brexit Blog 6:  The Problem of Immigration and Borders

In the previous blog I started pondering some issues to do with racism – what it actually means and how it may not be a cause of defensive feelings over perceived job losses. I also noted that most obviously there can be a link between racism and immigration – but not necessarily. This last point is important because some arguments for curtailing immigration – which has clearly become a big issue both before and since Brexit – have purely economic reasons behind them and not racial reasons.

Part of the EU concept has been to remove borders as far as free access to people is concerned but this raises a variety of questions. Immigration (Dictionary defn.: the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country’) is clearly a contentious issue so let’s try to identify some of the basic questions that arise in respect of people wanting to come into this country.

Basic Questions about Immigration:

One aspect of the basic problem of immigration was neatly put by Matthew Parris in the Times (24th Sept 2016) in an imaginary discussion between a Minister and his advisor:

Minister: “You what? Take me through this one more time. We should make a reciprocal treaty with every other nation in the world to accept any of their citizens with “a well-founded fear of persecution in their own country”. Every country? Any of its citizens?”

  1. Who should come?

In the fifties and sixties, we opened the doors to refugees from the war, e.g. Poles, and then later those we needed to fill jobs that no one else was taking, e.g. from the Caribbean. So we have two groups to consider: refugees and workers.

  1. How many should come?

Initially we didn’t worry because the numbers were not great. Indeed, today, if we were talking about a mere thousand Syrian refugees, we would not be debating the subject. What worries us is unlimited numbers and the effect that such numbers might have.

  1. What effect will they have on this country?

Here for many is the biggest worry.

  • Some focus on the thought that immigrants will take jobs at lower pay and thus undermine our employment economy. Linked with this are concerns about putting a strain on our housing supply.
  • Some worry that we have just not been good at bringing immigrants into our population and assimilating them in such a way that the characteristics of ‘British-ness’ are not diluted.
  • A closely linked worry from an historical perspective is that large numbers of immigrants from a particular country or race, tend to huddle together and ghettos are formed.
  • Some suggest there is no coincidence that criminal gangs, whether exploiting drugs, sex or whatever, often have a link to a national immigrant grouping.
  • Perhaps closely allied to that worry is the worry that with the influx of people from Middle Eastern countries, will come a number who are already terrorism orientated.
  • Another vaguely related worry (in that such people come from similar Middle Eastern countries) is the worry that some immigrants from those particular countries come bringing in practices that are alien to a civilized Western culture, e.g. various negative aspects of badly treating women (bride purchase, female circumcision etc).
  • Others (and David Cameron worked against this at least for a 5 year period) worry about a straining benefits system being broken by immigrants needing care.
  1. What forms do the arguments take?

On one side we hear, “We need to be caring and compassionate and take in all these needy people” while on the other we hear, “We need to distinguish between economic refugees looking for British jobs, and genuine political refugees but also recognize that we are a limited island with limited resources.”

The problems of refugees

Matthew Parris’ article focused on the persecuted and went on to suggest that a radical overhaul of the Geneva Contention Protocol on Refugees should come about, joining those who, to quote Wikipedia, “have argued that the complex nature of 21st century refugee relationships calls for a new treaty that recognizes the evolving nature of the nation-state, population displacement, and modern warfare.” i.e. the world has changed so much that to take in massive numbers fleeing from the world’s war zones is putting an undue strain on receiving countries.

Angela Merkel is an example of a national leader who has been suffering in the polls for her open doors policy which is clearly disliked by a number of Germans. The sight of the refugee camp at Calais has evoked, I suggest, three different common responses:

  • Compassion and anguish, especially for children there,
  • Anger at the hijacking of lorry drivers by apparently ‘desperate’ fleeing refugees,
  • Anger at the sense that just maybe Calais is part of the international chess game that nations play, in this case, France, to put pressure on other nations, in this case, England.

The Reality of a Combined Europe?

The ultimate goal of the European Union must be, as some have already suggested, the complete removal of all borders and the uniformity of all laws, taxes and tariffs, but while there are pressure groups within each country fighting for their own cause that is unlikely. Indeed, even prior to the referendum an article in the Telegraph declared, “Voters in France, Italy and the Netherlands are demanding their own votes on European Union membership and the euro, as the continent faces a “contagion” of referendums.” (Telegraph 23rd June 2016) Not everyone in the EU is as enamoured with it as the Remain protesters would like to think.

Even more, as some of the most economically stable countries look at the less stable countries and wonder how it will be before they are called to bail them out, the reality is that everything in the EU garden is not as rosy as many would like to think.

Not only is it in respect of general economies, but also when it comes to trade across borders. Beyond those three countries mentioned above, that same Telegraph article went on to note, “business leaders handed a considerable boost to the Leave campaign by saying it would be “very, very foolish” to deny the UK a free trade deal after Brexit. Markus Kerber, the head of the BDI, which represents German industry, said that 1970s-style trade barriers would result in job losses in Germany.” Varying views about all aspects of Brexit appear across Europe as well as in the UK.

We will pick up on further specific problems with border restrictions in the next blog.