It is not yet clear whether the old rock & roll saying “the devil has all the best tunes” applies to EU referendums too. The Remain campaign has all of the facts and the best friends a country could want on its side, from President Obama to our reliable old allies Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Meanwhile, Leave is backed by “Their Satanic Majesties” Putin and Trump and relies on making stuff up about immigration to stir people’s emotions.
Immigration is the Leave campaign’s favourite chorus. This is because it is a complex, emotive subject and therefore ideally suited for Leave’s simplistic scaremongering.
The Leave campaign generates fear by making bogus connections between all foreigners living in Britain and the few European criminals who have slipped through the net. Leaving the EU would not even add anything to our ability to stop the occasional villain sneaking in. We already have the absolute right to turn foreign criminals away at our borders when our authorities detect them, even if they are EU citizens.
In fact, tackling crime is much easier as part of the EU, partly due to the police and intelligence cooperation it facilitates. The European Arrest Warrant has enabled us to deport thousands of continental crooks over recent years. And, best of all, it enables us to nick our own criminals. Previously, many British murderers, rapists, paedophiles and other violent thugs were able to find sanctuary on the “Costa del Crime”. Thanks to the EU-wide arrest warrant, they can’t do that anymore.
Leave’s dishonest fear tactics include their racist posters suggesting 70 million Turks are going to come to the UK soon. Even in the unlikely event of the entire Turkish nation deciding to emigrate at once, they are not going to be able to do so. Turkey is a fine country but the reality is that it will not qualify for EU membership for decades, if ever. And, like all member states, the UK has a veto it can use to stop Turkey joining anyway (not that it will need to because the French, Germans and Dutch will use theirs first).
The truth about immigration is more nuanced. In my own home city of Hull, immigrants have revitalised semi-derelict areas by reopening previously boarded up shops and businesses and moving into empty houses. Many migrants do jobs for which there are not enough qualified or willing British workers. Anyone who has been in an NHS hospital or, like me, had an elderly relative in a care home recently will realise that these essential services could not function without their foreign staff.
On the other hand, there is concern that the availability of overseas labour allows employers to drive down pay in the lowest wage occupations, to the detriment of British workers. The best ways around this problem are proper enforcement of minimum wage legislation and skills training to give local workers more employment options. Such solutions are entirely the responsibility of the British government and not Brussels, regardless of whether we are in the EU or not.
On non-European migration, the only concrete extra “control” Britain would gain by leaving the EU would be the relocation of its existing border controls from Calais in France to Dover. This would make controlling immigration harder. And the UK would continue to be subject to the same global crises of war and poverty that drive migration as at present.
In fact, many other EU countries, such as Greece and Germany, are having more difficulties with migration at the moment than the relatively remote British Isles. The appetite for a total rethink of the system is strong across Europe. Britain would be better off staying in the EU to influence the forthcoming reforms, rather than taking on the futile task of trying to handle a global issue by itself. Indeed, I would not be surprised if a major European announcement about this matter is made before the conclusion of the referendum campaign.
Of course, one sure fire way to reduce immigration is to wreck your economy – if there are no jobs, then no-one will want to come to Britain. Voluntarily kicking ourselves out of our biggest market – the EU – would be a good way to achieve this result. It will make numerous big employers leave Britain. The calculation for them is simple. Having access to a market of over 500 million people (the EU) is better than being in one of only 64 million (the UK).
Job losses might not matter much to leading Leavers and noted defenders of the working people such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. One of the Leave campaign’s biggest funders and billionaire beneficiary of various tax dodging offshore companies, Arron Banks, says it is worth “paying almost any price” in economic pain to leave the EU. I doubt he is planning to pay the price himself though and the mass of ordinary people who will suffer might want to think carefully before voting to cough up on his behalf.
The EU referendum is not rock & roll. It is reality. The British people must avoid being seduced by the devil’s tunes. It is vital that they stick to the facts and go out and vote in their own interests to remain in the European Union.