Brexit is a highly topical supject and I have a question. Is immigration connected to Brexit? In what way?
Two main connections:
- The ability of the UK to set an independent immigration policy was a major issue for the Leave campaign. They wanted to be able to deny entry to some EU27 citizens and to change the conditions of stay for others.
- When Brexit comes, some of this will happen. Right now EU citizens have a right to take a job in the UK, after Brexit they will likely have to ask for permission which may or may not be granted.
British immigrants in the EU27 will be affected in a similar way.
Immigration is a subject that was used extensively to argue for brexit, although in reality it doesn't have all that much to do with the EU.
First the argument was made that levels of immigration to the UK are too high, with bogus claims being made about the effect on wages and the lack of housing being the main justifications. Eventually David Cameron, the Prime Minister who promised the brexit referendum, made an extremely unwise promise to reduce immigration levels from around 300,000 a year to "tens of thousands" a year. For reference, there are around 80,000 family reunions by immigration per year alone, before counting skilled workers, paying students and EU freedom of movement, so the goal was likely impossible to deliver and so far has not come close to being met.
It was argued that EU freedom of movement rules allowed many "undesirable" people to come to the UK, such as those from Poland and Roumania with few skills. There was also a completely false claim that Turkey was joining the EU imminently, which could result in 76 million Turks all moving to the UK for some inexplicable reason.
This kind of fear-mongering became a major factor in many people's attitudes towards the EU and brexit.
Of course, around 60% of immigration to the UK is from outside the EU, and not governed by freedom of movement. The UK government could stop it all tomorrow if it wanted to. Yet it does not, and there is no credible suggestion that it in fact might do so after brexit for some reason. In fact, many prominent brexit supporting politicians such as Penny Mordaunt (a cabinet minister) and Jacob Rees-Mogg have publicly stated that they expect immigration from outside the EU to become easier post-brexit.
In short, many voters had the mistaken belief that voting for brexit would reduce immigration, or was necessary to reduce immigration.
The EU has tied immigration to trade, more specifically unrestrained immigration to free trade. This is an atypical arrangement both historically and in the present-day context and, as far as I'm aware, the EU is the only entity to ever make such a correlation and apply it (or attempt to apply it to some degree) to trade agreements. What this means for the UK and some of the wealthier countries of the EU is that they may face flows of immigration for which their infrastructure, social systems, and culture are not prepared for. This can be especiallly trying on a system if there are large amounts of immigration in a very short period of time such as what has occurred with the UK in the last decade. This is directly related to sentiments that led to Brexit. It has not only put pressure on countries such as the United Kingdom, it has put pressure on countries such Romania who have in the obverse suffered severe amounts of emmigration. Because of the insistence that unrestrained immigration be tied to free trade, there are many Brexit supporters who are quite happy to give up the benefits of free trade in exchange for complete control of their immigration system.