Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Close Run Thing

Immigration and Brexit: How a rising tide of European immigrants fueled the Leave vote.: "As opposition leader, and later as prime minister, Cameron did much to legitimize doubts about mass immigration. He also pledged to drastically reduce net migration to the U.K. on explicitly nonracial grounds. The trouble is that while Britain could restrict non-European immigration, it could not limit European immigration without flouting EU rules. Since Cameron came to power in 2010, European immigration as a share of total immigration has crept upward for precisely this reason. Europe’s economic malaise and Britain’s robust labor market recovery has made it all but impossible for Cameron to hit his overly ambitious immigration targets.

Recognizing that his failure on immigration made him vulnerable, Cameron tried desperately to persuade other member states to allow Britain to change the rules. But he met with implacable resistance from the leaders of newer member states in central and Eastern Europe, who resented the suggestion that their citizens be treated any differently than Britons. This left Cameron dangerously exposed: Having made the case for why Britain should have more control over European immigration, Cameron’s failure to actually wrest that control from his European partners made him look more than a little ridiculous. All leading Brexiteers like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove had to do was point out that Cameron had failed to deliver.

Right now, the partisans of “Remain” are damning the likes of Johnson and Gove for Brexit. However, it is not at all clear if they are the ones to blame for Remain’s defeat. Had Cameron managed to secure a solid commitment from the European Union to do something as simple as limit the access European immigrants had to British welfare state benefits for, say, two or three years, Remain almost certainly would have won.* Instead, Cameron’s friends and allies in Europe left him out to dry."