Second only to my worries about the adverse impact that a Brexit vote will have on Britain’s economy are my fears about what would happen when triumphant Brexiteers discover that they cannot get what they imagined they voted for.
For they are, I believe, voting for the gold at the end of the rainbow…
Two big ideas have the out-ers salivating – stopping immigration and regaining sovereignty. The latest scare from the Brexiteers is that millions of Turks (anything between 1-12 million depending on which frightsheet you look at) are poised to flood in to Britain.
It’s disgraceful drivel – Turkey isn’t in the EU and won’t be anytime soon or even later (Greece and Cyprus will veto Turkish membership so long as it occupies northern Cyprus).
Then there is the continual stream of refugees across the Mediterranean. Sure they are not EU citizens, and yes, the EU is not dealing with the crisis. But Britain leaving the EU is not going to magically produce an EU solution to that. It also strikes me that if Britain is not in the EU, the French will feel little obligation to preventing these unfortunates from trying to get across the Channel.
Oh well, but at least Britain will be able to stop all these Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians and sundry other EU nationalities with lots of dirt-poor folk flooding in.
All the evidence on that front is that the vast majority of EU immigrants come to work, contribute more in taxes than they take in benefits, and from doing jobs that the Brits don’t want, such as cleaning offices, waiting tables, picking mushrooms, etc.
In fact, the only circumstance in which this flow of people might stop because of Brexit is if the predictions of a leave vote’s consequent economic downturn are right. If there is no work, these EU people won’t come. Brilliant, we might all be a bit poorer, but at least there will be no pesky immigrants to worry about.
Of course, Brexiteers insist that we will all be richer, which means there will be more work, not less, so we will still be a migrant magnet. Ah yes, but then we will be able to control it, just like the Australians do. This somewhat ignores the fact that Australia is surrounded by hundreds of miles of shark-infested ocean, not a relatively short strait which can be crossed in small craft, and does not have lots of roll-on-roll-off ferries in which migrants, despite all the security, manage to stow away.
Our proximity to neighbouring countries means that we would still have illegal immigrants, a problem which British governments have had, and will continue to have, regardless of being in or out of the EU, absolute freedom to deal with.
But they have failed, to the extent that Migration Watch UK, a reasonably non-partisan outfit, reckons there are about 1 million illegal immigrants here.
We cannot know the accurate number for obvious reasons. There is, however, self-evidently a problem. Illegal immigrants who work will do so away from prying official eyes, leaving themselves open to low-waged exploitation and the probability of finding themselves forced into criminality.
Tackling this problem is horrendously difficult, requiring intrusive surveillance and policing, and the curtailment of liberties which most people would find unacceptable, not least because of the huge cost.
And that throws light on the other imagined pot of gold at the end of the Brexit rainbow, the reclamation of sovereignty. One acid test of sovereignty, surely, is the ability to control immigration. But the horrid fact is that in the modern globalised world with easy legal and illegal transport, there is only partial control.
Brexit will do nothing to change that.
Peter Jones is a freelance journalist living near Edinburgh and specialising in economic, business, and political reporting. firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Jones worries that Brexit voters are doomed to disappointment even if they win…