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Blame Austerity – Not Immigration – For Taking Britain To ‘Breaking Point’

June 27, 2016 • GLOBAL ECONOMY, Europe, Special Focus on Brexit

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Immigration is at the heart of the Brexit debate and is quite polarised. On one side, the Remain campaign either ducks the issue or focusses on the benefits that immigration brings to the economy as a whole. On the other side, the Leave camp focuses on its costs and plays into fears that migrants are putting pressure on public services that are already at breaking point.

 

Immigration is at the heart of the Brexit debate. It’s a large reason why economic arguments have failed to sway voters. Despite warnings of the high economic costs of leaving the EU (warnings supported by a majority of economists), immigration has continued to have a powerful influence – and is perhaps the major reason why the opinion polls have become so close in recent weeks.

The immigration debate is quite polarised. On one side, the Remain campaign either ducks the issue or focusses on the benefits that immigration brings to the economy as a whole. On the other side, the Leave camp focusses on its costs and plays into fears (often in a cruel and cynical way) that migrants are putting pressure on public services that are already at breaking point. At least among Labour supporters intending to vote leave, immigration also appears to be a key issue.

The need for a more even-handed assessment of the costs and benefits of immigration is sorely needed. While immigration brings undoubted benefits, it also places pressures on particular communities. It also feeds a sense of fear and frustration especially among the working class about an economy that is not delivering. It comes to symbolise the lack of power and opportunity available to them.

 
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About the Author

David Spencer is a professor of Economics and Political Economy, University of Leeds.

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