the more likely people are inclined to resist and oppose the status quo. He argues that Tony Blair’s

liberal and multicultural policies in the 1990s and early 2000s, along with the admission of mainly eastern European nations to the EU, led to a rise in anti-immigration feeling and the emergence of the likes of the hard-right BNP and the UK Independence Party. But after Prime Minister David

Cameron’s 2011 declaration of the “failure of multiculturalism” and of his “war” on its proponents, pro-immigrant sentiments began to grow in response. “If we understand public opinion

as involved in a symbiotic, responsive, ‘thermostatic’ relationship with the political environment – where movements ‘too far’ in one direction by either one will be reciprocated by a movement in the opposite direction by the other – we can in turn understand the


dramatic positive change in public opinion towards immigration,” Dr English maintains. Historically,

the most

commonly-held objection towards immigrants – especially those from the EU27 nations – was that they took jobs that would otherwise go to Britons. Such views have been roundly refuted by academics, notably in an extensive research paper, published by the London School of Economics just before the referendum, which concluded that “migration from other EU countries has not had an adverse impact on the wages and job prospects of UK-born workers”. The report stated: “EU

immigrants pay more in taxes than they use public services, and therefore they help to reduce the budget deficit. Immigrants do not have a negative effect on local services such as education, health or social housing; nor do they have any effect on social instability as indicated by crime rates.” In a recent analysis of changing

attitudes, Reiss Edwards, a London- based, specialist immigration law firm, concluded the idea that migrant workers damaged the work prospects of domestic workers “has very much been debunked”. The report added: “Those

who still maintain that the UK’s immigration policy has harmed wages and jobs will need to wait until 2021 to see how leaving the

EU really pans out for them in terms of job prospects. Already the Home Office has stated categorically that low-skilled migrants will not be allowed into the UK, and hence such roles will ultimately need to be fulfilled by British nationals and settled workers. Whether this increases job prospects and wages across the economy will remain to be seen.” However, there has also been a

historical prejudice against some immigrants based on their country of origin and skill levels. Research by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory found that only 10% of Britons polled objected to Australians coming to the UK to work, compared to 37% who would say no to Nigerians being allowed in. “Such patterns have sometimes

been described as an ‘ethnic hierarchy’,” the observatory reported. “At the preferred end of the scale are those who are white, English-speaking, Europeans and from Christian countries, while the least preferred are non-whites, non-Europeans and from Muslim countries. Romania is an interesting anomaly. Despite being a European and Christian country, opposition to immigration from Romania is at similar levels to opposition to immigration from Pakistan.” But ethnicity has not been the

only factor influencing British attitudes. The observatory research revealed that when migrants had professional qualifications, opposition to their presence had been low, regardless of where they came from. “When migrants are unskilled, opposition is high,” said the observatory’s report. “Further, when asked about professional immigrants, British people do not appear to distinguish between countries of origin. “This British preference for

highly skilled migrants fits with other research showing that, when asked about what criteria should be applied to incoming migrants, British people attach high importance to skills, but lower importance to skin colour and religion.” All

of which could explain

why current government ministers stress that the UK will still be open to the “brightest and best” from around the world when the current Brexit transition period ends on December 31.


As Home Secretary Priti Patel

says: “Now we have left the EU, we are free to unleash this country’s full potential and implement the changes we need to restore trust in the immigration system and deliver a new fairer, firmer, skills-led system from January 1 2021.” But as the Financial Times commented this summer: “Brexit Britain, it turns out, is not really the Brexit Britain we’ve come to know and despise. Brexit Britain, it turns out, is quite pro-immigration! Or, at least, is becoming less anti-immigration. “People now view immigration

both as a more positive thing, and a less salient issue. And that’s despite the fact that while EU immigration has fallen significantly since the Brexit vote, non-EU immigration hit a record high in 2019.”



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