Kyus Agu-Lionel

Sub-Editor Naked Politics


Was immigration a factor in the Leave vote?

Like it or not, the Leave side made immigration the centre of their campaign. Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and others harped on about ‘controlling migration’ and banged on about Turkey joining the EU.

It was also a major reason why people voted the way that they did. Leave voters protest that it’s patronising to suggest this, but ahead of the referendum Ipso Mori found that: “Almost half (48%) [of the survey of more than 4,000 British adults] say that the number of EU immigrants coming into the UK will be important to them when they vote in the EU referendum, and this rises to 72% of those who say they’ll vote to leave…” After the referendum, Lord Ashcroft’s mega-poll found that 33% of those who voted said that the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”

This obsession extends to the media, whose coverage of the referendum has been through the prism of hysteria-inducing headlines about migrants. ‘Shut the borders now!’ they shouted ‘before the flood of 75 million Turks arrive at our borders!’

Can the UK be part of the single market, but not accept free movement of people?

In a deluded sort of panic, Boris Johnson floated the idea on Monday that the UK could pick and choose the choicest morsels on the table. He wants British people to be able to work and study at will in Europe, but also wants to debar EU nationals from doing the same here. He wishes the UK to be part of the single market, but not pay a single penny into it. This has now been thoroughly shot down.

The two models which have been mooted as models for a post-Brexit UK are Switzerland and Norway. Switzerland pays financial contributions to the EU and also allows the free movement of people. Norway pays financial contributions to the EU and – guess what? – also allows the free movement of people. EU leaders from Angela Merkel to Donald Tusk have said that there would be no cherry picking, and that the UK could not be part of the single market without ‘all four freedoms’: including – all together now! – the free movement of people.

The impossibility of free trade without free movement is something that Johnson and the rest have always known. Johnson even said last year that the UK could not get free trade with the EU without accepting the free movement of people and EU regulation too, and this highlights what a cynical power-play his participation in Leave campaign was.

Does Johnson believe in Brexit?

No, Boris Johnson has never truly believed in Brexit. In February of this year he said in his column for the Telegraph that the single market was of “considerable value” to the UK and that the EU wasn’t the real problem facing this country. In addition to this, footage from three months ago has emerged where Boris said that he would vote to Remain, and in 2014 in his biography of Churchill he wrote that the “European Community, now Union, has helped to deliver a period of peace and prosperity for its people...”

So why did Johnson lie?

His about-turn at the end of February was because he never expected Leave to win: he instead wanted to use the campaign as a springboard into Number 10. He and the rest of his cronies in the Leave campaign disparaged the importance of the single market in referendum debates, all the while knowing that it is essential to our economy, and they also knew that price of membership of that market would be adherence to the EU’s core principle of the freedom of movement of all kinds. Despite all of this, they still led a campaign for Leave which placed curbing immigration at its heart.

This was exposed hours after they’d won, as major Leave campaigners started back-tracking on their promises to ‘control our borders’ and ‘reduce migration’. Johnson’s points-based system would actually increase immigration, and even he now admits that migrant numbers won’t fall. Conservative MP and passionate Brexit campaigner Daniel Hannan has also said that immigration will not come down.

They have been lying to the voters about this and many other things and have sacrificed Britain on the altar of their own vanity and ambition. Johnson in particular has tricked people into accepting crashing financial markets, relocation of jobs into Europe, the pound falling through the floor and much more, as worth it, because at least we’d have ‘control over our borders’.

Those people who voted Leave to curb the tide of immigration are going to be sorely let down by the realisation that this is simply not going to happen – not without giving up access to the single market and slitting the throat of our economy. This is something that Johnson and the rest simply aren’t going to do, so that begs the question: what was the point?

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Last Update: April 28, 2018