Brexit – a vote for racism or a complex issue with global repercussions
- what is Brexit
- who voted for Brexit
- what is behind Brexit
- facts and figures
- what are the effects of Brexit
Brexit, a vote for racism or a complex issue with global repercussions. Today I am going to be talking about what Brexit is, who voted for it, what is behind Brexit, the facts and figures and lastly what the effects of Brexit are.
What is Brexit
Firstly what is Brexit? The term Brexit has been adopted to refer to Britain’s exit from the European Economic Union also known as the EU, which is made up of 28 countries. A referendum was held on the 23rd of June 2016, this was to decide whether Britain should remain within the EU, or withdraw. The winning vote was to leave the EU 51.9% to 48.1% with a turnout of 71.8% that voted. Britain is now in negotiations with the other member countries to decide on terms for the withdrawal, which should take place on 29th March 2019, with a further transition period ending on 31 December 2020
Who Voted for Brexit?
Secondly who voted for Brexit? there were very clear distinctions between voters, by region, age, and education. England and Wales voted to leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. Statistically, voters aged 34 and under chose to remain, those aged 45 and above voted to leave. Also the more highly educated tended to vote remain and those with few or no qualifications were more likely to have voted to leave. There were very clear distinctions between voters: by region; age; education. Older people were significantly more likely to turn out to vote: 93% of people aged 65 or overvoted, compared to 70% of people aged 18-34
What was behind Brexit?
What was behind Brexit? if you believe some of the reactions following the shock result, it all came down to a wave of anti-immigration feeling, usually accompanied by the very emotive word ‘racism’. when asked, the top three considerations in deciding how to vote were: the economy, immigration, and sovereignty. Those who were most concerned about immigration and sovereignty were most likely to vote left. There undoubtedly has been a rise in Nationalism, both in Britain and elsewhere. Partly this is down to a growing distrust of globalism, the chipping away of national sovereignty and a loss of cultural identity.
Facts and Figures
Now I will be talking about the facts and figures of Brexit. Britain has a very long history of immigration, but for this speech, we will only be looking at the modern period following World War 2 when the population of Britain stood at 49million. From the late 1990’s the pace of immigration increased rapidly, in part due to the relaxation of UK immigration controls and the expansion of the EU to include east European countries. By 2010 the population had grown to 63 million. Despite recent government efforts to stem the flow, the UK population now stands at 65.6 million, with an annual increase of almost 400’000. The rate of migration has led to pressure on housing, school places, healthcare and infrastructure, and also low growth in wages. It has also negatively affected the integration of migrants into British society.
What role did racism play
Immigration has changed the culture of Britain. The recent levels of influx have affected change too much, too quickly for some people. They feel that their national identity is being sidelined. These feelings have been strengthened by the issues of globalization and the reduction of national sovereignty.
The relationship between Brexit and racism has been widely discussed both before and after the referendum. Two independent studies showed that people with personality traits associated with prejudice would support a leave vote. In other words, those would normally support an ultra-right party would support Brexit. Immediately following the leave result there was a measurable spike in reported hate crimes, leading to an additional 638 hates crimes over a month. Analysis of this rise supports the theory that this racist minority took the referendum results to be a validation of their beliefs which could now be expressed openly. However, this category represents a small proportion of leave votes.
A 2017 study on attitudes to immigration showed a pattern of bias by Britons towards favoring migrants from white, English speaking European, Christian countries. Those from non-white, non-European and Muslim countries were less favored. The study concluded ‘British people make clear distinctions between types of migrants with the highly skilled preferred to the unskilled and those culturally close countries preferred over from countries perceived to be more culturally distant. But it also showed that level of work skills were more important than the country of origin. “This British preference for highly skilled migrants fits with other research showing that, when asked about what criteria should be applied to incoming migrants, British people attach high importance to skills, but lower importance to skin color and religion.
Although this study focuses on British attitudes, similar studies have been carried out in other European countries. Britain comes out on top on wanting to curb immigration, but when attitudes to existing migrants is examined, Britain comes out as more welcoming than countries such as Belgium, France, and Germany and much more so than the Czech Republic, Slovenia or Estonia. A study by open Europe found, in fact, that Britons welcome a controlled migration system, which supports migrants filling vital roles, such as in education and healthcare, and contributing to society. Aarti Shankar a policy analyst, states ‘in fact most people have a relatively nuanced view and can articulate both the advantages and disadvantages of immigration brings. ‘we found little evidence that the desire to control migration was driven by racism.