Michael Gove, a long time advocate for the Leave campaign throughout the Brexit debate, has recently claimed that Brexit has made the country more favourable of immigration than previous times, despite mounting evidence to suggest that racism has continually risen since the EU referendum.
A curious comment, all things considered, Gove said: “All the evidence is, actually, that since we voted to leave the EU, that attitudes towards immigration have become more warmer and optimistic.”
Gove doesn’t reference the evidence he refers to but data from the Migration Observatory published January 2020 states that while 39% of the UK citizens surveyed believe the level of immigration should stay as it is, 44% said they would like to see immigration levels reduced.
The Observatory did find attitudes had ‘softened’ with a drop over many years in individuals reporting being opposed to immigration. However, the data stretches back to 1964 and a decrease in opposing attitudes is seen across the 2000s, therefore this ‘softening’ cannot be due to Brexit as Gove claims.
Perhaps Gove means there is a warmer attitude towards migrants who come from certain countries. Many Leavers, according to the recent statistics from the Migration Observatory, reported they would be comfortable with allowing ‘some’ or ‘many’ Australian migrants into the UK but feel opposed to other nationalities such as Romanian, Nigerian or Pakistani. This only serves to prove an uncomfortable suggestion: that migration to the UK is welcome, but only if you’re white and wealthy.
Perhaps Gove means there is a warmer attitude towards migrants who come from certain countries
Such findings do little to dispel fears that racism and xenophobia will be in full, unashamed force in the UK, with one ‘Brexit party’ celebration in Norwich showcasing a targeted attack on individuals who happen to speak a language other than English. The distributed flyers stuck to neighbour’s front doors stated that Brexit Day was cause for celebration and non-native English speaking individuals had “infected this once great island.”
The flyer went on to claim that “Queens [sic] English is the spoken tongue here” and celebrated the idea that “we finally get our great country back.”
In terms of Gove’s claims of warmth, it would seem amongst some of Brexit’s most ardent supporters the final divorce from the EU simply consolidates their misguided beliefs in British superiority.
Research by NatCen highlights almost half of individuals who voted Leave are confident immigration will be reduced, with 34% of Remainers believing the same. These figures have been relatively stable since the result of the referendum until 2020.
Senior EU politicians such as the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, European Council leader Charles Michel and European Parliament President David Sassoli have made their stance clear to UK leaders.
This only serves to prove an uncomfortable suggestion: that migration to the UK is welcome, but only if you’re white and wealthy
Their joint statement said: “Without the free movement of people, there can be no free movements of capital, goods and services. Without being a member, you cannot retain the benefits of membership.”
Johnson’s press conference on 3rd February 2020 confirmed what he expects in terms of a “suit of agreements” which sets out in its first point that there is to be “no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions between the UK and the EU.”
With free movement off the table, it looks like a stalemate is ahead: unless the Prime Minister compromises or is forced to make a devil’s deal with Donald Trump’s America.