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.





5. Racism and Reality

10 10 2016

Brexit Blog 5:  Racism and Reality

Racism: Dictionary Defns: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races” or “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

Now I put the above definitions up as a starter for the consideration about one particular aspect of the rumblings about Brexit that have come from the Remain side. We’ll look at it more fully in a moment or two. Things have happened post-Brexit and I would like start to examine in this blog the claims of racism that are made and then perhaps go on to consider other problems to do with immigration, which is an associated hot topic.

London thinking versus the rest?

It is a strange world we live in and certain aspects of Brexit suggest that London is a little island of liberal thinking that may be ahead of the rest of the nation in ‘reasonable’ thinking. It is clearly where the heart of the media resides but merely because London media and advanced liberal thinking (sometimes akin to Christian ethics but from different motivation) declares something, it doesn’t mean the rest of the country believes it and agrees with it. A recent example was the furor that arose over young people and sport and homophobic chanting and general opposition to the gay outlook. The fact that it hit media headlines shows what many already know, that not everyone in the nation agrees with the liberal agenda of London.

Racism does happen

The Independent newspaper recently wrote, “The full extent and true nature of the “blatant hate” that has beset post-Brexit Britain is today detailed for the first time after The Independent was given exclusive access to a database of more than 500 racist incidents compiled in the weeks since the EU referendum.”   Let’s assume the Independent figures are accurate.

So the Brexit equivalent is the apparent wave of racist incidents that have occurred since Brexit. Rather than take the popular apparent media view that this is caused by Brexit (although the Independent quote doesn’t say that) I would suggest that it was there long before Brexit and a study of headlines over the last three years, say, will show that job security and immigration have been linked subjects in some parts of the country for a long time.  All Brexit did was release in the minds of those who already felt this, a freedom to act wrongly to express their feelings.

Racism or simple defensiveness?

An observation of the Prime Minister’s final speech at the recent Conservative Conference clearly indicates she and her ministers are now patently aware of the hostility to those who have come into this country and taken jobs here, by some already here who felt threatened and aggrieved by that. The words ‘fairness’ or ‘unfairness’ cropped up 16 times and the word ‘fair’ a number of other times.  For example, “if you’re one of those people who lost their job, who stayed in work but on reduced hours, took a pay cut as household bills rocketed, or – and I know a lot of people don’t like to admit this – someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration, life simply doesn’t seem fair.”

It may be of academic interest, but nevertheless true, that merely because certain parts of the population feel threatened by (as they see it) their jobs taken, does not mean they fit the definition above of racism. Superiority or inferiority may not come into it – merely that “this is my land and you are taking a job that should be mine.”  Let’s face it, that has been a similar argument that has been used historically by a variety of Unions whose members fought off others encroaching their domain as they saw it.

Wider ponderings about racism

Let’s refocus on that original definition of ‘racism’: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races” 

Already above I have suggested that protectionism or defensive anger against perceived threats to jobs is not necessarily the same as racism (although racism can be part of it). Now because so much casual hot air is expressed about such subjects as racism, we need to look more carefully at just what specific words being used actually mean in common usage.

Let’s consider the word ‘race’ in the above definition. Usually the first and more common definition found is:

“A group of people identified as distinct from other groups because of supposed physical or genetic traits shared by the group.” 

Notice the ‘physical’ or ‘genetic’

Now notice a wider definition that, I suspect, has sneaked in with questionable origins:

“A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality or geographic distribution.”

From this second definition we would assume that long-term inhabitants of France would be called a ‘race’ or similarly inhabitants of ‘Germany’ are a ‘race’ by these standards. How about the Dutch or the Swiss or the Italians?

The inherent demand (because ‘racism’ is being used as a morally bad word in modern society) of the above definition is that it is wrong to suggest that the inhabitants of any particular country have particular characteristics that mark them out from other countries.

Tell a Frenchman this, or an Italian this, or a German this, and I suspect they will be offended. Cultural stereotyping in dangerous and so an inhabitant of the USA might be upset if someone suggested they were all ‘extroverts’ (which is clearly not true), while a German might be pleased if you said you thought a primary national characteristic (not the only one) was ‘industrious’. Websites referring to the English are likely to include such words as, “Stiff upper lip, resolute  in the face of defeat, self-depreciating and fair play,” all generalizations.

But here’s the point, both of my starting definitions speak about ‘superiority’. We’ve already noted that different counties are known (rightly or wrongly) for their national characteristics. Don’t confuse ‘different’ with ‘superiority’.  I would suggest that the language of racism is so often used as a weapon to demean the other person’s argument. It is also the language of the person who has had little contact with other nationalities. Do we have to like the apparent national characteristics of another country? No, but it will depend on what it is. Is it wrong to observe different characteristics? I suggest not. Is it wrong to look down on others for their characteristics? I suggest, yes. The demand to be like everyone else in Europe is both unrealistic and unknowing. We’ll say some more in the next blog. There is enough here to chew on.