The effectiveness of the European Union (EU) has been a politically-controversial topic ever since the formation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1958. Initially, there was a desire for economic integration between member states that were geographically located within Europe. However, as the membership of the EEC expanded, so did its agenda. Ultimately, the EU’s legislative powers have faced long-standing scrutiny by the British public due to reasons of sovereignty, yet disregarded the effects of globalisation that result in trade infrastructures, economic stability and cultural integration.
A referendum over Britain’s membership was called in 1975. Yet 41 years later, there still seems to be a public desire for a Brexit. Widespread doubts regarding the effectiveness and legitimacy of the EU have not been exclusively concentrated within the UK, as they have increased amongst more member states over recent years. Nevertheless, the EU promotes greater cultural awareness amongst countries through immigration and the free movement of individuals, which is a benefit that cannot be disregarded. A wave of free movement of individuals between countries within the EU also has vast economic benefits for member states, as an exchange of skills and expertise is able to flourish across geographical borders.
The highest percentage of employment amongst non-British EU workers in the UK is in low-skilled labour
Ironically, the basis of the leave arguments around migration are contradictory, as migrants cannot simultaneously be stealing one’s job and living on state benefits. Amongst many voters lies a belief that Britain allows for free-market economics to flourish, which are accompanied by meritocracy. Therefore, the belief that migrants are taking job opportunities away from British nationals becomes invalid. If populist claims of migrants taking up jobs were true, they would be conveniently dismissing the contribution that immigrants have made to the UK’s economy through spending costs and contributions to taxation.
However, when tackling the view that EU migrants come to the UK in order to live off benefits, xenophobic campaigners present a rather narrow and oversimplified view of the situation. The highest percentage of employment amongst non-British EU workers in the UK is in low-skilled labour, which benefits the UK’s economy by aiding the running of small businesses, but also the continuation of larger businesses adopting zero-hour contracts. Therefore, should the blame be shifted onto UK employers who exploit EU migrants due to the recognition of their desperation when escaping corrupt governments and inadequate pay schemes?
The constant rhetoric that circulates amongst leave voters tends to target immigration regulations set by the European Commission. According to the UK’s independent fact-checking charity, fullfact.org, the levels of EU (net) migration into the UK in 2015 were approximated to around 185,000. The majority of migrants that come into the UK over the years seek jobs and better means of education, aspects of the UK that have been highly advertised over the years. However, what many disregard is that the amount of non-EU immigrants that come to the UK has always been outstandingly higher, figures that will not be affected by leaving the EU.
Even so, the impact of non-EU immigrants who enter the UK are far more beneficial than the leave campaign will ever be able to comprehend, as a deep rooted prejudice towards foreigners is detected. A main solution of Brexit raised by the leave campaign is that the NHS will improve and become more efficient. However this instantly disregards the benefit that the 26 per cent of non-British doctors brings to the health service. Therefore, by tightening immigration policies, the UK risks isolating individuals who would benefit UK businesses and the healthcare system whilst simultaneously boosting the economy and levels of cultural integration.
Regardless of our beliefs, sexual orientation, or even political inclinations, we’re all subjected to emotions of fear, happiness, love and appreciation.
Despite the fact that this could be perceived as ‘foreigners stealing jobs’, when applying the meritocratic system that we’re believed to live under, these high-skilled doctors are showing a willingness to migrate across the world to use their knowledge and to become employed in a system that systematically discriminates against them with regards to employment possibilities and wage rates.
The migration levels of the UK are undoubtedly high. However, they’re still approximately 252,000 short of Germany’s levels, according to the European Union’s statistics from 2014. These figures are yet to include the immigration levels caused from the Syrian refugee crisis.
When attempting to deconstruct the roots of discrimination and the perception that Western values and desires are superior, hence legitimising populism’s xenophobic attitude, geographically-constructed borders and imperialist values need not be ignored. An individual’s nationality has come to mean more to them than their overall inclinations towards humanity as a whole. When disregarding our place of birth, the colour of our skin and the language we speak, are we all that different?
Having a different passport from the person sat next to you in the train to work or University doesn’t make you any less human. Regardless of our beliefs, sexual orientation, or even political inclinations, we’re all subjected to emotions of fear, happiness, love and appreciation. Amongst the waves of imperialism and colonisation over the years, Western societies such as the United Kingdom have been infiltrated with a sense of superiority.
I came to understand how institutionally-entrenched British culture was in other countries
Imperialism, especially during the late 17th century, demonstrated a perception that white supremacy meant an entitlement to land across the world. “The scramble for Africa”, where European powers colonialised parts of Africa, occurred due to a perception of Western dominance. Kipling’s famous poem of the “white man’s burden” is not an ideological concept that died with the decolonisation of most British regions. The legacy of Cecil Rhodes and the fixation on ‘British values’ is still a prominent factor amongst many within the UK.
Immigration therefore becomes a huge consequence of imperialism, carrying with it the irony of British leaders spreading so-called wonders and opportunities provided by the UK whilst simultaneously complaining that others are willing to embrace these overly-advocated benefits. Parents from across the world wouldn’t be so keen on sending their children to a foreign country to get a degree in their second or even third language if these Western countries hadn’t been advertising how prestigious their universities are. Without wanting to dismiss the outstanding levels of education offered at UK universities, it seems unreasonable to be promoting international integration whilst dismissing it behind closed doors.
David Cameron’s support for the stay campaign still doesn’t relinquish his unshakeable stance on anti-immigration policies. After the EU summit in Brussels on 18 February 2016, Cameron was clear about his doubts on the duration of migration, child benefits, the Eurozone and parliamentary sovereignty. These are issues that were compromised on by both the PM and the EU, as negotiations led to an altered relationship with the EU, as the UK has been given more independence than other EU countries, despite still having a high voting stake.
The effects of cultural integration are vital to an ever-so-globalised world, as one does not necessarily have to live in the UK to feel part of the culture. Attending a British school for the past 13 years has made me realise that despite the fact that most of my classmates had always lived in Cyprus, they were just as British as their family back at home. I came to understand how institutionally-entrenched British culture was in other countries as our bank holidays and celebratory events coincided with British historic events, as opposed to Cypriot ones.
Most of my classmates throughout the year spoke nothing but English and mainly lived according to British customs, as did my family. This is an indication that by leaving the EU, many UK citizens who live and study abroad will be marginalised and disregarded as groups that should live in the UK. When living in the UK, it is understandable to disregard the educative and enriching benefits of cultural integration. An appreciation for other cultures and different customs and beliefs was inevitable when attending a relatively international school, an element that is reflected at large when a society is culturally integrated and respected. If the UK were to leave the EU, this would prevent most people from easily working, studying, and living aboard, which would allow them to introduce their families to different environments.
When tracing back our DNA, it will come to our attention that none of us are purely British, Greek, Belgian or French.
Amongst this xenophobic behaviour exists ignorance towards the 1.2 million UK nationals that are living, working or studying in other European countries. There is an evident cultural disregard for other nations, as many UK nationals are believed to have a façade of superiority in choosing to ignore the ongoing evidence for globalisation that exists amongst Europe and the world as a whole. Ironically, when other EU citizens come to live in the UK they’re instantly regarded as ‘migrants’. However, when UK citizens migrate to other regions within the EU they’re called ‘expats’. As a result, the term expat is less heavily burdened with negative connotations of immigration, thus racially distinguishing Brits from other European citizens and proving previous points made about an observed desire for British distinctiveness.
When tracing back our DNA, it will come to our attention that none of us are purely British, Greek, Belgian or French. Throughout the centuries of evolution and constant migration across the world, there has been an inevitable cohesion of races that compose our human entities. Therefore, when referring to nationalism or the sovereignty of a country, are different groups merely promoting the division of individuals according to our nationalities? A consequence of our birth that we have no control over, yet are systematically subjected to?