I wish we had politicians to honestly say we need to encourage a hell of a lot more working age immigrants to come to the UK, but it’s still normal to want border controls. It’s the scapegoating of immigrants which is shit.
We aren’t in Schengen; we have and always have had border controls. We need to stop calling immigration restrictions “border controls”. And if we need “a hell of a lot more working age immigrants” then why do we need immigration restrictions?
Is the problem immigrants who are under 18? Most of those come here with their parents, and you won’t convince as many working-age parents to come here if they have to leave them behind.
Is the problem immigrants who are over 65? If they have family in the UK, blocking them can make their working-age children’s lives harder. If they don’t, how many are likely to be moving here anyway?
Is the problem with certain kinds of working-age immigrants? The ones who may have broken the law (somewhere), or might one day? The ones who don’t have enough money? The ones who don’t have the right kind of education, or the right skills?
The ones who don’t speak English? The ones who do, but don’t speak it at all times when they’re in public? The ones who speak it in public in a foreign accent? The ones who wear foreign-looking clothes? The ones who have foreign-looking skin?
The ones who don’t admire and agree with everything British governments or British people do, or have ever done?
If we want immigrants but still want “controls”, who are we controlling, and why? Different people will have different ideas about where to draw the line, but if some would like, for example, immigrants to speak English to a certain standard to be allowed to settle here, how far is that line from those who want everyone to speak English in public? If we want immigrants to be able to support themselves before they can settle here, how different is that from not wanting immigrants to “take advantage” of welfare or the NHS?
Scapegoating of immigrants is indeed shit. But that scapegoating feeds off, and feeds, increased attempts to control immigration. It feeds the hostile environment, and feeds off it. It fed the impulse to Leave, and has fed off it.
For a lot of Leavers, Brexit wasn’t about parliamentary sovereignty, about “taking back control” of obscure legalities. It was about controlling other people: people who aren’t “like us”, who won’t always do exactly what “we” want, but who have the affront to live next door to us, either here in Britain, in our towns and cities, or next door to Britain, acting all foreign in Foreignland.
To judge from the result, that’s normal, or was in June 2016. Well, it may be normal to want that control, but not everything normal is fair, or helpful, or right.
“We have and always have had border controls” in the modern era, in any case; passports and border controls weren’t always what they are now. The Common Travel Area also relaxes those controls between Ireland and the UK, but Ireland isn’t part of Schengen either.
Added by Rory on 12 June 2018.