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Migration myths and unravelling of Brexit promises

September 11, 2016 4:33 PM
By James Lindsay in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by High Peak Liberal Democrats

European flagsThe recent increase in hate crimes against Eastern Europeans in the UK has rightly been met with condemnation from across the political spectrum. Some dismiss this is a post-referendum spasm which will quickly ebb away. I fear that may not be the case and the Brexit decision may cause long-term damage to community cohesion and open a Pandora's box of nasty populist politics. Let me explain why.

Brexiteer leaders - Farage, Fox, Johnson - made promises which are already unravelling. They told voters that leaving the EU would lead to better NHS services, improved job prospects and smaller class sizes. Those promises were largely based on migration myths which, unfortunately, many people believed.

Voters were promised that leaving the EU would lead to an improved NHS. Migrants were (wrongly) blamed as a drain on scarce NHS resources and that the UK cash contribution to the EU would be redirected to the NHS.

The reality is that the NHS is struggling because people are living longer, but often with multiple medical conditions and there has been a huge increase in conditions resulting from lifestyle choices. Neither of these is related to migration - these are home-grown problems - so leaving the EU will not resolve them and may make matters worse as it could discourage medical professionals from coming to work in the UK.

As regards more money for the NHS, that promise has already been broken. The Government has stated it will instead guarantee existing EU funding for the science and agricultural sectors which means no cash injection for the NHS.

With regard to class sizes, as a former school governor for many years, I can say that has always been an issue. The problem is not migration, but underinvestment over many decades in the education system.

Brexiteers promised that less migration would mean more job opportunities for UK citizens. Yet, in reality it is Government underinvestment in education, training and apprenticeships - not migration - which has resulted in school leavers lacking the skills they need to secure employment.

Secondly, Brexiteers argued for a points based immigration system. The Prime Minister has rejected that, but offered no alternative. Whatever model is eventually proposed it is unlikely to meet the expectations of ultra-Brexiteers as the "who's allowed in" list is likely to be long: from bankers to seasonal agricultural workers to qualified construction workers which the housing sector needs.

Ironically, if the Brexiteers' promise that the UK economy will boom comes true then demand for migrants to meet that economic expansion will increase.

Also, any Brexit deal with the EU will almost certainly protect the residency rights of Brits living on the mainland as well as those from the mainland living in the UK.

Brexit migrant myths will be exposed, but will not disappear overnight. Failure to deliver Brexit promises will lead to a lot of angry voters which creates fertile ground for populist politicians even more extreme than Farage.

* James Lindsay is a Lib Dem member in Harborough.

Migration myths and unravelling of Brexit promises