The recent vote by the people of the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU) has rocked the world. Many of my friends living in London, England have expressed their disappointment over the result of their referendum. There are lots of uncertainties and this has rocked the UK market as well as the British Pound. But why did things go sour with the British with regards to being part of a powerful and influential collective group? My friends in the UK lament that the prime motivation of the people who voted to leave the EU was xenophobia; that the prime driver of those who wanted to leave was anti-immigration. I do not agree entirely with that. I think it was more fundamental. I think BREXIT was the result of misplaced faith on social and economic collectivism.
On the social front a good friend of mine, Arcie Pragale, tells that:
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“The main issue it appears is immigration. The EU open borders policy has resulted in an influx in the U.K. of immigrants that apparently ‘scared’ the majority of the British population. As an immigrant it is very important to assimilate and integrate into society. Whenever I can I try to give back in time or money to the communities here in Southern CA that has given me a lot of opportunities and business. Assimilate, educate yourself, respect the old timers and status quo, be charitable and there will be no problems.”
I think he got it spot on. Many of the “Leave” voters were probably workers frustrated about their jobs being taken by immigrants who don’t share the British tradition and culture. Instead of this frustration being addressed by proponents of the status quo, this frustration was probably even more aggravated by smears of racism and xenophobia from the “Stay” group. The problem is not that the majority of the “Leave” folks are racists (although some probably are), it was probably more about the fear of losing a nation’s cultural identity as a result of the seemingly uncontrolled influx of many immigrants who refuse to be assimilated to the British culture. Can you imagine a slew of, say, Muslim immigrants coming in a predominantly Christian or even secular state? These folks are coming in with different religions, traditions, and social practices so much different from the UK’s. How open would these people be to adopting the culture of the new land they moved to? I imagine not so much as evidenced by the large Muslim immigrant concentrations segregated in turfs like the Banlieues in Paris. Many of these people hold on to their beliefs and cultural practices so tight despite some of these being frowned upon (even abhorred) in the Western World like in the UK. Beliefs and practices such as honor killings and forced marriages – these things would easily lead to a backlash against the Muslims. Now imagine these people taking advantage of European generosity by claiming “free” benefits, education, healthcare amongst other freebies and subsidies but also wanting to hold on to their cultural beliefs, practices, and traditions that are contrary to Western ways and beliefs? (Beliefs like the sanctity of human rights, political freedom and equality.) If we think about this, the seemingly anti-immigrant sentiment (being labeled as racism) now doesn’t sound too groundless, does it?
In 2011, the Muslim Council of Britain published a study showing that an unprecedented growth rate of the Muslim population in the UK. An article from The Commentator states that:
“This study revealed that Britain’s Muslim population (including Scotland and N. Ireland) increased from 1∙6 million in 2001 to almost 2∙8 million on census day 2011. That represents an almost seventy-five percent increase over a ten year period, an “unprecedented” population growth according to Prof David Voas of Essex University.
Such a growth rate may well be unprecedented for Britain, but it has not been that unusual for other parts of the Muslim world. The MCB study also stated that Britain’s Muslim population would continue growing “for many decades”.
That projection makes sense as the study also revealed that the number of Muslim children in the UK has almost doubled in the past decade. Almost ten percent of under-fives in England and Wales are Muslim, twice as high as in the general population.
Given that these figures relate to a statistically significant ten year period, it’s reasonable to conclude that those increasing percentage rates represent the future demographic make-up of Britain, with Muslims becoming a higher and higher percentage of the British population.
The reason for this is that the expanding Muslim population in Britain is only one side of Britain’s demographic story. The other side is that average British birth-rates at 1∙6 per female are below replacement level (2∙1 births per female). Muslim birth rates in Britain (even taking into account the social diversity of the Muslim population) are significantly higher than the non-replacement birth-rates of the wider British population.
It is this combination of falling average non-Muslim British birth rates and increasing Muslim birth rates that could well determine the future demographic picture of Britain.
Continuing immigration, not just birth rates, also contributes to Britain’s growing Muslim population. The immigration picture changes over time, but between 2001 to 2011 almost four million immigrants came to Britain, 30 percent from the EU, 70 percent from outside the EU, mainly from Africa and Asia.
Given such demographic facts, and accepting the MCB report that Britain’s Muslim population will continue to grow for many decades, it’s interesting to ask what the demographic picture of Britain will look like, for example by mid-century.”
So in considering the UK’s continuing non-Muslim birth rate decline, the higher and increasing Muslim birth rate, and the large influx and concentration of unassimilated Muslim immigrants one will able to see where the “fear” is coming from.
But things are not just about fear of losing national and cultural identity. The bigger thing, I think, is economics. Again, Mr. Arcie Pragale, a certified public accountant in California, said:
“The European Union is an experiment that is headed for failure. Integrating economies of various countries in different stages of development is an insurmountable challenge. The truth is that EU economic policy has only favored Germany the last five years to the detriment of stagnant economic growth in Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain, etc. How can a central body in Brussels dictate one economic policy for various countries with different needs and challenges? States in the USA has independent governance, however in times of economic and/or natural catastrophe; the powerful Federal government in Washington D.C. steps in and restores order. No country in the EU has the mandate or resources to perform that function.”
I think Pragale, again, made a great point. No central body can dictate one economic policy for different sovereign nations. Every sovereign nation has different needs, challenges, and if I may add – different traits. Take for example the case of Germany and Greece. We have seen how the Greek economy has taken a nosedive starting in 2009 because of the bloated size of their government, their over-regulation on Greek businesses, out of control social welfare spending, and insane retirement benefits of Greek retirees. Germany, one of the few countries that prospered under the EU tried to get Greece to adopt austerity measures involving huge spending cuts in order to save Greece from totally collapsing. But instead of embracing the much needed measures, the people of Greece still voted to reject the much needed measures due to an already ingrained entitlement mindset. Is it any too farfetched to find the rationality behind many German people’s objection of the continued subsidy (bail-out) to Greece when a lot of the hard-working and thrifty Germans see Greeks as too lethargic with their economic affairs and too submerged in their entitlement mindset? I imagine a lot of the British voters who chose to “Leave” the EU felt the same frustration of having to carry the burden of bailing out indolent EU member countries.
The whole aim of the EU was indeed noble. Some of its mandates include:
• Establishing an area of freedom, security and justice without internal borders
• Fighting against social exclusion and discrimination. Promoting social justice and protection, equality between women and men
• Promoting economical, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among Member States.
However, the EU’s vision, I would argue, was too idealistic. It seems to have focused too much on the similarities of people from different nations and shunned their differences. As BREXIT seems to show us, no single currency or socio-politico-economic body can ever eliminate the things that separate the nature of nations and different people. Afterall, different people are products of their unique culture, traditions, religion, histories, language and other various traits.
(Image taken from Vox Europ )
Calling a spade, a spade…