We must embrace & understand diversity in the UK

An act of white terrorism

I started writing this the day before MP Jo Cox was callously murdered in an act of premeditated terrorism. She was also a wife, a mother of two and a fierce champion of diversity. Her West Yorkshire constituency is not far from my own. The terrorism in question is not the kind favoured by media narratives. It doesn’t sell the policies they represent. It was not committed in the name of ISIS but by a white, British extremist. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center Thomas Mair, the alleged killer of Jo Cox, was a longtime supporter of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Mair apparently purchased a manual from the NA in 1999 that included instructions on how to build a pistol.

Terrorism is defined as “the unofficial or unauthorised use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” As details emerge the murder of Jo Cox increasingly qualifies. She was not the victim of what we’ve defined as a hate crime, but hatred most certainly killed her. We don’t yet know what the exact motives of the killer were, but a picture is emerging of a white supremacist looking to ‘purify’ Britain and Jo was both outspoken and actively engaged as a lawmaker against facism and racism.

Hatred is on the rise in the UK. The situation has been brewing for some time but has more recently begun to escalate. The fires have been stoked by those campaigning on a ticket of anti-immigration, particularly with respect to the EU Referendum.

Immigrants have made extraordinary contributions to British society throughout history

Let us deal with migration for a moment, which includes both immigration and emigration. Immigrants have provided immense value to all societies throughout history both socially and biologically. The UK is no exception. Examples include:

  • Sigmund Freud (Austrian)
  • Karl Marx (German)
  • TS Eliot (American)
  • Sir Alec Issigonis designer of the Mini (Greek)
  • Dame Zaha Hadid (Iraqi)
  • Mo Farah (Somalian)
  • Sir Anish Kapoor (Indian)
  • Kazuo Ishiguro (Japanese)
  • Michael Marks co-founder of Marks & Spencer (Polish)
  • Jimi Hendrix (American – although he never officially became British he is nonetheless a UK Music Hall of Fame inductee for his contributions to British music mainly during his final years spent in London)

The Duke of Edinburgh was an immigrant. Born Prince of Greece and Denmark in Corfu in 1921, the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece; his paternal family is of Danish descent and his mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg. Prince Philip only became a naturalised British subject and renounced his Greek and Danish royal titles in 1947, just before his engagement to the Queen. In fact most of the Royal Family have been immigrants throughout history, though it is difficult to say how much value they’ve collectively added to society.

Migration is one of many vital components to economic growth and stability

The central cases put forward by both ‘In’ and ‘Out’ camps of the EU Referendum acknowledge that British society (and indeed all societies) requires migration. Both immigration and emigration are central to maintaining a healthy balance of labour skills, diversity and freedom of movement across borders. There are, for instance, many British people living in the EU – 1.2 million by the last count in 2014.

Currently the UK has a net migration rate of 2.56 / 1000 per year globally ranked roughly 39th. That means there are 2.56 more people in every 1000 entering the country each year than there are leaving it. Net migration totals roughly 333,000 per year. Some non-EU states in Europe have a higher migration rate. Norway for instance has 7.25. Other EU states have a lower migration rate; France for example has 1.09.

Leaving the EU does not mean that our migration rate will automatically drop to 0

We would face complex policy decisions led by 2 main questions:

Q1. “Would the EU offer comprehensive access to the single market if the UK did not accept similar free movement arrangements as it does now?”

Q2. “How is the UK going to compete post-Brexit if it adopts policies that restrict the supply of workers?”

Without arguing in favour or against a position, there is absolutely no guarantee that Brexit would reduce the population swell or prevent the current situation from remaining as it is. The pro-Brexit government elements are fervently denying that any legal EU immigrants would be deported if we left the EU although the pro-EU elements have suggested this could happen. Nobody seems to know for certain what will happen as no country has ever pulled out of the EU before. If we were to deport our 3.3 million EU citizens we may have to re-import our 1.2 million British residents in the EU. The logistics would be staggering.

There are 2 likely Brexit outcomes with respect to EU immigration

1) Restrict freedom of movement and lose access to the single market arrangement. This also means we’d be forced to charge tariffs of 10-20% on top for all of our EU bound products. These account for 44-50% of our entire export market. An increase in wages domestically could result from this. However it is also likely to result in a considerable loss of export business as our products become too expensive for existing markets. All we would gain is the ability to restrict immigration from EU states. We already have that ability for non-EU states and yet they account for just as much of the immigration figures as EU states do. For the year ending in June 2015 there were 277,000 non-EU citizens vs 270,00 EU citizens.

2) We keep the single market arrangement like Norway does and also accept the freedom of movement. In other words nothing changes at all.

Remember that we are not replacing the existing government with this referendum. Without a radical overhaul of government policy even a Brexit result is very unlikely to alter population or immigration figures as substantially as is often being assumed. There are no major parties backing Brexit, including the Tories in power. Neither outcome above accounts for the inevitable resentment from our former EU partners. Such resentment is likely to result at least in greater unwillingness to do business with us should we decide to leave.

We must address the challenges of diversity

The challenges of cultural diversity resulting from immigration in the UK need addressing regardless of the outcome of the referendum. The immigration debate has thrown this into sharp relief. There are numerous well researched studies that demonstrate the economic and social benefits of diversity. Britain is an example of a society that has “traditionally identified the political nation with specific ethnic traditions.”  The problem is how to manage acculturation in such a society. We must therefore ask “how much cultural adaptation can they expect from immigrants and how open are their national cultures for accommodating the immigrant experience?”

Many societies have not adequately met these challenges. The USA, despite its posturing as the great melting pot, has long been unable to accept its multi-ethnicity. Italy also struggles to accept its multi-ethnicity even though many of its own emigrants are ghettoised in other cultures. Both are different examples of ‘physical diversity does not equal cultural diversity’ because of historical legacies and other factors. We need more research specific to the UK in order to reach a deeper understanding. Alongside that we must encourage the positive benefits of diversity and establish an open dialogue between all groups. These are the elements that should inform policy, education and debate – not fear and hate mongering.

I, an immigrant descended from immigrants, wrote this.

I leave you with this Mr Gee collaboration from a few years ago that is more relevant now than ever. Today I dedicate it to Jo Cox and everything she stood for.

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