PART 1 – A Country Divided – How The Leave Campaigns Lies About Immigration And Sovereignty Were Able To Take Hold
By Teni Shahiean of OTS Solicitors
The UK referendum on whether or not to remain in the UK was held over two weeks ago. Now the dust has settled and emotions have calmed down, it is time to start asking why.
Why did a majority of those living in Britain’s heartland vote to leave? Why did they believe the propaganda and lies spread about sovereignty and Immigration? And if those who voted to leave were making a ‘protest vote’, what were they protesting about?
This article is split into three parts. The first outlines three of the main arguments the Leave campaign used and the evidence to dispute these claims. In part two, I will examine why our attitudes to Immigration played such a big part in people believing these claim. Part three will look at the issue of sovereignty, and why this issue galvanised so many people to vote for Bexit.
The demographics of the Leave/Remain split
When you examine how the Leave/Remain votes were cast, it becomes apparent that this was a tale of two countries.
We are all familiar with the basics; young, university educated urbanites who earn above the median wage overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. The rest of the population wanted out.
But let’s dig a little deeper; take the issue of Immigration. The areas with the highest levels of EU nationals living, working and studying in the area, such as central London, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester, all voted to remain (by a majority). Rural areas, where EU citizens are not so present, voted to leave.
Shouldn’t it have been the other way around? If EU nationals were causing such a strain on housing, the NHS and schools, isn’t it more logical that the areas where EU migrants are most concentrated should have voted for Brexit?
Let’s look at a couple of key allegations that the leave supporters and campaigners levelled time and time again at EU (and non-EU) migrants.
Wages and UnEmployment
It has been said over and over again that cheap labour flooding in from Europe, especially from Eastern Europe, drives down wages, making it harder for British people to get jobs.
In a study by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, on the impact of migrant workers on the UK economy, the findings showed:
- Immigration has a small impact on average wages of existing workers but more significant effects along the wage distribution; low-wage workers lose while medium and high-paid workers gain
- the wage effects of Immigration are likely to be greatest for resident workers who are migrants themselves
- for both wages and Employment, short term effects of Immigration differ from long term effects - any declines in the wages and Employment of UK-born workers in the short run can be offset by rising wages and Employment in the long run
- there is no evidence that EU migration has any impact on Employment in the UK, however, non-EU Immigration could have a negative impact on UK workers, but this is more likely to occur when the economy takes a downturn
From these points we can deduce that any short-term impact on wages and unEmployment caused by EU nationals working in the UK impacts those working in low-skilled, low-paying jobs such as those in the hospitality and care professions.
Lack of housing
How many times over the course of the referendum campaign did we hear a British national saying they were not provided with social housing because EU migrants were given priority?
Is there any truth in the statement that Immigration puts a strain on social housing? In yet another Migration Observatory Study, researchers at Oxford University found that:
- those born outside the UK are three times as likely to be renting in the private sector (39% were in this sector in the first quarter of 2015), compared to the UK-born (14%)
- recent migrants (i.e. those who have been in the UK for five years or less) are almost twice as likely to be renters (74% were in the private rental sector in the first quarter of 2015), compared to all migrants. Those migrants who have been in the UK longer tend to have accommodation similar to that of the UK-born
Around 91% of social housing is taken by UK-born citizens.
EU and non-EU migrants are also blamed for the continuous rise in the cost of housing. However, evidence shows that Immigration has a negative effect on house prices and presents evidence that this is because the incumbent native population respond to migrants arriving by moving to different areas and those who leave are at the top of the wage distribution. This generates a negative income effect on housing demand in those areas and pushes down house prices. The negative effect of Immigration on house prices is driven by local areas where immigrants have lower education.
Any shortage of social housing is down to a variety of factors including; a lack of social housing stock, an increase in life expectancy, and more people delaying marriage or forgoing cohabitation resulting in an increased number of smaller households.
EU migrants just come here to collect benefits
Migrants have always been accused of coming over to Britain and leeching of the state. Again, when the facts are examined, this is far from the truth.
Statistics show that EU nationals are less likely to claim out-of-work benefits but more likely to claim in- work benefits than UK born citizens. There are a couple of points to make on this:
- to claim in-work benefits claimants must be working
- migrants are more likely to hold lower-paid, lower-skilled jobs which means their level of income makes them more eligible for in-work benefits
- more than half of EU born adults who reported receiving tax credits in 2015 were working full time, and around 90% had dependent children (however, less than half of EU born adults living in the UK have children)
Try as I might, I cannot picture a family from France, Germany, Poland or Hungary, sitting around the dinner table discussing whether or not to uproot their children and their lives to move to the UK on the basis that they may receive a tax credit or two!
With three of the main arguments used by the leave campaigns’ supporters lacking any concrete evidence (in fact in some cases the evidence points to the opposite of what leave argued), why did so many people vote for Brexit? And why was Immigration such a driving factor?
This is what I will attempt to answer in part two, in my next blog.
OTS Solicitors is a fully regulated, highly regarded law firm, based in the centre of London. Our solicitors are considered to be some of the best Immigration experts in the UK. We are regularly called on by the media to make comments on developments in Immigration law. To make an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors in relation to obtaining a UK permanent residence Card or British Citizenship, please phone us on 0203 959 9123.