Vox: Brexit isn’t about economics. It’s about xenophobia.

The campaign behind Brexit is a mirror image of our own Cheeto Jesus out here trying to Make America Great White Again.  This entire article is a great rundown but the background is especially important:

To understand why Brexit is, at its heart, about immigration, you need to understand a little about the history of immigration to Britain.

Before the European Union was created in 1993, immigration wasn’t a huge deal in the UK. Net migration — the number of people who move to the UK minus the number of people who move out of it — was less than 100,000 annually. After that, however, things changed.

“Between 1993 and 2014 the foreign-born population in the UK more than doubled from 3.8 million to around 8.3 million,” Oxford researchers Cinzia Rienzo and Carlos Vargas-Silva write. “During the same period, the number of foreign citizens increased from nearly 2 million to more than 5 million.”

This can’t all be laid at the EU’s feet. India and Pakistan are the first and third largest sources of British immigration, respectively. But the EU played a major part, as EU rules restrict the ability of member states to bar migration from other EU member states.

Between 2004 and 2014, when immigration to the UK really took off, the percentage of migrants entering the UK from Europe spiked. It went from a little over 25 percent to a little under 50 percent, which means that Europe has driven a lot of the recent rise in the UK’s immigrant population.

There are basically two reasons for this. First, the EU starting expanding in 2004 to include mostly post-Communist countries in central and eastern Europe. These countries are poorer, which means that when they acceded to the EU, their citizens were more likely to move out of them to find work in richer countries such as the UK. Indeed, Poland is now the second-largest source of immigrants to the UK, just behind India.


As always, misdirection, false promises, and hazy memories played a huge part in convincing (mostly older & white) people that returning Britain back to its former glory as white enclave of prosperity and no crime would be the answer to everyone’s problems.  It’s no coincidence that the older you are, the more likely you were to vote in favor of leaving the EU.

It’s a symptom of those “Well, in my day…” conversations and lectures that most of us have heard from a parent or grandparent at some point in our lives.  Does this mean old people are racist?  No, but nostalgia is a tricky animal, and it’s often misleading.  

If you believe things were better when you were younger, were they really better or was life better for you because you were younger?  Was the economy great or were you just not paying attention because you were younger and it was of no concern to you?  So you’ve decided things should go back to the way they were 40 years ago when everything was great, and your politicians are telling you it’s Western Europeans from poor post-Communist countries out here taking your job and Muslims from faraway brown countries also taking your jobs…and plotting to kill you.  The only way to reduce immigration is to leave the EU, even if that means sending your country into a recession of indeterminable severity.  You’re trying to make your country better by choosing to make it worse, and most of the people making that decision have either left the job market or will be leaving it soon.  

So there are a lot of angry millennials in Britain today looking at the baby boomers like “thanks for wrecking the country,” which feels like a lot of millennials on this side of the pond looking at our own baby boomers like “thanks for doing your best to wreck the country.”  And all of us can trace our frustration to white people waxing nostalgic for a Leave It To Beaver era when brown people were kept in their place and everything was so perfect and there were no conflicts and everybody had jobs and bought 2-bedroom houses with a high school diploma.  Let’s blame brown people stealing jobs and not corporate greed.  Let’s blame brown people plotting to kill you and not the rise of a police state and the sensational nature of newsmedia.  

All of this just underlines the importance of voting as a young person and being involved in politics.  Pay attention to the world around you and shape it into the world you want to live in for the next 60 years instead of passively allowing it to be shaped for you.

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