What are we not voting about?

I am seeing quite a few comments about stories being kept out of the “mainstream media” which relate to crimes undertaken by immigrants (or descendants of recent immigrants) or of riots by migrants in other EU countries, notably around Calais, on the basis that this will have a negative impact on the “Remain” campaign.  As someone who both believes in free speech and will be voting remain, I thought I would help provide some coverage.

Firstly, there is the terrible case of child abuse in Yorkshire (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-36559092).  A gang of 15 men, all of south Asian heritage, have been sentenced to up to 25 years in jail for horrible crimes, but I am struggling to see the connection with the EU referendum.  None of those convicted appear to have any connection with EU migration, nor is there any suggestion that any European court will somehow stop them serving the sentence that the court in Leeds has passed.

The second involves the violence occurring in the migrants camps around Calais (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/21/british-tourist-captures-dramatic-footage-of-calais-police-clash/).  This is a long standing issue and seems like it is getting worse.  The French do seem to be struggling to deal with it, but again, I struggle to see what it has to do with the EU Referendum?  The people who are rioting are not from Greece or Portugal.  The reason they are in the camps in Calais is precisely because they do not have free movement rights; they wish to come to the UK but cannot.  People speculate that the French may become less diligent if the UK was to depart, but assuming they abide by their treaty obligations, nothing will change following a “leave” vote; they will remain in the camps and they will still wish to come to the UK.

The population flows from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa pose massive issues.  The recent report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (http://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/latest/2016/6/5763b65a4/global-forced-displacement-hits-record-high.html) shows migrants and displaced persons at record levels of 65m, greater than the population of the UK.  The last 2 years has seen governments both within the EU and outside struggle to find solutions, probably because there are no solutions that can be delivered easily, quickly or without significant costs.  Efforts to date have been a muddled mix of policies as politicians have tried to “do something” when they know they can do little beyond applying a sticking plaster to gaping wound.  Building a big wall or blowing boats out of the water will not stop the flows of people; it will just change the direction of travel.  Equally, letting unrestrained immigration into Europe will cause instability and tensions of a different kind.  Again however I ask the question, what is this to do with the EU and the desirability to stay in; those population flows will still happen.  Norway and Switzerland are outside the EU and face the same issues, and like them, a post-leave Britain would have to be involved in what is happening.

There are many arguments in both directions in regard the EU referendum; I happen to think we should remain, others for perfectly rational reasons think we should leave. But I do think it is dangerous to conflate a decision around economics, trade and sovereignty with one about refugees, none of which originate from countries within the EU. Wishing to restrict free movement of labour from EU countries is a valid economic and political objective, but there is no reason to connect that with flows of migration caused by war and famine from countries in the Middle East and Africa. Departing the EU cannot have any impact on such flows.  Are there refugees who are criminals? Of course there are. Will the barbarity of what they have gone through make them more inclined to criminality? Quite probably. But there are criminals in every population; being a bad person is not related race, religion or country of origin.  Just as the vast majority  England football fans are not violent, racist thugs, most refugees are not sex offenders, but in both cases there are some who are.

So if you think for reasons of sovereignty, economics and law making that Britain should leave the EU, then vote “Leave”; I don’t agree with you, but that is what this referendum is about.  Don’t however vote out because you are concerned about the refugee crisis around the Mediterranean; whichever way you  vote will not alter that in the slightest.



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