Brexit rages in the minds and the mouths of this country, and the whole debate has pretty much boiled down to the question of immigration control. That’s understandable, as it’s the most emotionally charged aspect of the referendum, and the easiest target for the Leave campaign’s very cleverly calculated rhetoric.
We’re being flooded by immigrants. They come here taking your jobs and your children’s jobs. They come here without jobs and take your benefits and your children’s benefits.
So goes the Leave campaign’s prime argument.
When challenged on this xenophobic stance, Brexiters are quick to point out that, of course, they’re not against all immigrants. Just, you know, the bad ones.
Taking last night’s Question Time as an example, the anti-immigration comments from the Leave camp (panel and audience alike) can be summed up as this:
“Oh we’re not against immigration as such. We do like immigrants. We just don’t want the ones that come here taking our jobs, and the ones that come here and don’t work and take our benefits.”
So tell me again, who are these immigrants that you do like, then? Because if you don’t want the ones that come here to work, and you don’t want the ones that come here without a job, that adds up to 100% of foreigners coming to this country.
And that makes you exactly one thing: a xenophobe.
Heart vs mind
I’m worried about Brexit. As a German, European and adopted Brit who has lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK for the past eight years, I’m very worried indeed about a potential exit from the EU. But what worries me most is the blatant xenophobia driving the Leave campaign.
As Eddie Izzard kept saying on the Question Time panel, this stance is hugely damaging to our efforts to improve the state of humanity globally. What we need is not more withdrawal into our own little national bubbles, shutting our borders and throwing out people whose nationality we don’t like. History should have taught us enough of the consequences this approach tends to create. What we need is to reach out to each other and work together on the real threats facing us and our children: Climate change. Resources running out. Spreading political instability. War. Hunger. Good luck to any nation trying to make a difference to those issues on their own.
I’m worried about the referendum because when it comes to immigration, the Leave camp has a very emotionally charged argument that is being driven right into people’s hearts, while the Remain campaign is trying to appeal to economic considerations, humanity and plain old common sense.
I can only hope that when the people of this country vote on the 23rd, they will read their minds as well as their hearts and not let the scaremongering rhetoric cloud their human judgement.