Brexit and the Migration Bogey

2016, UK's majority voted to leave the European Union for good. But who leaves actually whom behind?

British members of parliament have thrice rejected the Withdrawal Agreement and Prime Minister Theresa May had little option but to go back to EU leaders and tell them to delay Brexit. The new deadline is 31 October. Key EU members like Germany would like the UK to stay in the Union, and Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble believes that “either Britain will not leave the EU at all, or it will come back at some stage.”

One key driver for British voters to push the ‘leave’ button was to restrict immigration and freedom of movement; the perception was that EU migration – largely from East European countries – was damaging Britons’ pay and job prospects. This ties in with similar sentiments being stirred in other EU countries, from Estonia to Spain, with the emergence of a clutch of far-right politicians with a nationalistic, ultra-conservative stand. National sovereignty, immigration and Euroscepticism are issues that appear set to change the fabric of the Union. Against that backdrop, it would be interesting to know whether the Britons who voted ‘leave’ because they felt migrants were the reason, they were unemployed still feel that way. There is a fair chance that if Britain does leave the Union, these voters may well realise that Brexit has not resulted in more jobs for them. In fact, unemployment and job vacancies have only risen in the UK after EU workers began leaving the country in anticipation of Brexit.

Brian Carvalho
...started out with Business World in Mumbai, he went on to become managing editor at Business Today. He subsequently moved to The Economic Times where he edited features as well as The Economic Times Magazine out of New Delhi. He has been editor of Forbes India since November 2017, based in Mumbai.

That immigrants are an essential fuel for entrepreneurs came to the fore in a recent deep dive by TechCrunch into how Britain’s immigration crackdown was hurting its startups. “Entrepreneurs in the UK should therefore be forgiven for feeling they have little reason to smile and plenty to worry about. Rising costs for accessing talent and growing political risk is certainly not the kind of scale they love to dream of,” concluded the writer. The disproportionate focus on ultra-conservatism in significant pockets of the EU may have just meant that it has had to take its eye off some very real threats. One of them is climate change, where a unified EU can be a force to reckon with.

Ironically, it’s on the barometer of nationalistic fervour that India and the EU share a common space. Illegal immigration was an issue in the just concluded general elections in states bordering Bangladesh, but more than that it was the patriotic bombast that the right-wing Narendra Modi-led government unleashed against Pakistan that queered the pitch for opposition parties. A recent ‘EU-India Factsheet’ on “An EU Strategy on India” points to some reasons the EU should be working closer with India. These include the obvious advantages of being a populous country that’s consuming more as well as being the world’s fastest growing large economy. The factsheet also declares that “the EU and India share the same values of democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms…” Surely, freedom of movement would have to figure among one of those fundamental freedoms.


Author: Brian Carvalho

The article was featured in our May edition 2019 „Brexit/Europe“.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

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