Brexit, Immigration and Global Animosity

Concerns on immigration have arisen within the recent Brexit debate. Brexit advocates suggest that leaving would make the UK less attractive to migrants, an increasing cause of concern. Leave campaigners insist that staying in the EU would worsen problems of “uncontrolled” migration from both European and non-European countries into Britain.

However, David Cameron, a Remain supporter, suggests that leaving the EU and wrecking the economy is absolutely the wrong way to control immigration. Instead, to control migration, migrants may be welcomed, and if they can’t find a job they have to go home. There is currently a limit on those outside the EU coming for economic reasons.

But to some extent, migration may not be affected much by this decision. While politicians speak of migration for economic reasons, this may often be coupled with environmental motivations, which will only increase as climate change impacts grow. The Foresight Report stated that “Measures that prevent harmful environmental changes, reduce their impact, and build resilience in communities will diminish the influence of environmental change on migration but are unlikely to fully prevent it.” And estimates show that there will be 200 million participants in cross-border migration due to climate change by 2050. In addition, if the UK wants to trade with the EU, they may be subject to follow rules involving immigration anyway.

From an ethical standpoint, Annex I countries, or some of the most developed countries, have a duty to help less developed countries improve adaptive capacity as outlined in by UNFCCC (the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), and these developed countries may also owe it to vulnerable areas to take in their residents fleeing from destruction Western Nations have caused through polluting actions in past decades. Helping countries improve their adaptive capacities may reduce future migration from these countries. So in the short term, migration might be inevitable.

This Brexit campaign is also representative of recent globally divisive attitudes. Anti-immigration stances are only one part of this. Previous climate summits have illustrated how reluctant countries are to cooperate on issues of climate change since no one wants to receive blame or take responsibility that may bring extra costs. This move by the UK may cause further fragmentation and disunity in a situation where more seamless connections and cooperation across countries is needed more than ever for emissions trading, technology transfers, knowledge sharing, monetary lending and more.

The US election also reflects this disunity occurring across different demographics: nationality, age, class, and race. Groups are frequently clashing over concerns for the nation’s, and the world’s, future. Perhaps this is an chance for an increase in cross-group education and exchange to create mutual understanding. But, realistically, this kind of exchange seems unlikely.

One of my favorite Brexit images so far is from the Guardiana hot air balloon with the English flag on it floating above the clouds and soaring away. It perfectly illustrates the current mindset of some politicians who believe that they can escape global problems and responsibilities by building walls or pursuing isolation. Issues regarding immigration, economic growth and climate change will not disappear if these actions are taken. Remaining in the EU, or not voting for Trump, may not completely solve these problems or quell animosities, but I hope that politicians will base future decisions off of facts, and not fear or conjecture. My hope is that more educated politicians can perpetuate knowledge, and that knowledge will reduce hatred and encourage cooperation.

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