Many in Britain, including some of the media I work for, are quick to write off the people of Central and Eastern Europe as politically backward or immature. When the Poles vote for the Law and Justice party or Marian Kotleba makes it to the Slovak parliament there is some patronising explanation for this supposedly irrational voter behaviour. More often than not, something about communism or corruption is cited as the cause, and in recent years manipulation by Russian propaganda has become another simple explanation.
But with the Brexit vote less than a week away, here is a little secret: there may be no more backward place on the planet than the United Kingdom.
Sure you have heard about the queen and how they drive on the wrong side of the road, but even more archaic is the political system. In fact, a majority of votes in the general election last year were cast for losing candidates. Read that again. More Brits voted for candidates who are outside parliament than those who voted for people now in – that is the exact opposite of what elections are supposed to do.
By the way, this referendum everybody is making such a big deal about? It‘s not even legally binding. In other words, it is pure theatre so that David Cameron and Boris Johnson can stage a public battle over who has the right to lead the Tory party. Yes, that is right, the world is being held hostage so two guys from the same high school can decide who is king of the playground.
What is rooted in schoolboy silliness has gotten a whole lot more serious as rampant xenophobia became the driving force behind the leave campaign. Regardless of the result, it will be hard to look at the UK (in this case England specifically, which is the only part of the country that really wants to leave the EU) in the same way.
The UK’s Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom just told The Guardian that immigration had been a good thing for the UK until the early 2000s, when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe joined the EU. So, to be clear, the problem is immigration – but the big problem looks to be Slovaks, Poles and Czechs.
Such emotions, wrong as they are, might make sense if there were economic problems in the UK – but there are not. In fact, 74.2 percent of Brits are employed – the highest rate ever. So if there is any correlation between immigration and employment in Britain, it’s that immigrants actually create jobs for natives. This might be because, as the Centre for Entrepreneurs found, immigrants are twice as likely as natives to start their own business.
So, in or out, know this: Tens of millions of Brits are ungrateful for the contributions Slovaks and others make to their country, and instead falsely blame them for their problems – which are poorly addressed by a broken political system.
Are you sure you are in favour of a Bremain? Does that sound like a reliable partner?
21. Jun 2016 at 6:51 | Benjamin Cunningham