Brexit and immigration: This surprising political lesson from the UK about the true nature of our identity concerns

Boris Johnson delivers a speech on immigration at Leeds Airport on 14 April 2022. Since Brexit, immigration to the United Kingdom has increased.

Atlantico: Since Brexit, Immigration to the UK has increased. However, it is no longer seen as a major issue by British citizens at all, according to data from the IPSOS Issues Index and the UK Office for National Statistics.united. howexplain?

Christopher Putin: Many elements can explain or contribute to this. It reveals, for example, that the same journalist who wrote this study, John Byrne Murdoch, also points to the very clear difference in perception that exists among the British between those who wanted to remain in the European Union, and among the rest, and those who wanted to leave, the Leavers. In fact, for the remaining 33% who are pro-immigration, the latter would have been declining compared to 2016, which is wrong because it continues to grow, and even another quarter of the rest also think it hasn’t increased. Conversely, on the leavers’ side, 47%–and even 67% of those who oppose immigration–this time, rightly, believe it has increased since 2016.

The second element of interpretation, the face of this migration has changed. In 2016, at the time of Brexit, a large part of the immigration under attack was labor migration from EU countries – the equivalent of our “Polish plumber”, but in addition to the city. In 2022, the immigration picture has been much more, for a large portion of Britons, of refugees trying to cross the Canal on a canoe – and we are very far, with these few crossings, from the impact of labor migration for other EU nationals.

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So, some do not want to realize the evolution of migration, the latter has changed. But besides this, among the British as in other countries, other elements came to the fore in various opinion polls, and the population was consultedBeing very sensitive, which makes perfect sense, to the issues of the hour. However, since 2016, the health crisis has come to the fore in this news, then the war in Ukraine, and now the economic crisis. In the surveys on which this study is based, which are recent surveys, it makes a lot of sense to see immigration rank second. But if tomorrow we turn the page of the health crisis completely, if the international crisis leads to stability, and if the economic crisis subsides, then the numbers will be different – and this is difficult also in the case of a terrorist attack. on British soil.

However, beyond these basic elements of caution when we want to draw conclusions from a survey without forgetting the biases, we can already think that the Brexit phenomenon in itself, even if it was not, did not, as we see, lead to a possible That the decline in immigration would make the latter relatively, from the moment it is no longer seen as an inescapable fact imposed on a population that ‘cannot but, but as a political choice the same population will make’. be able to express themselvesAnd she can change if she wants.

Should we conclude from this that identity also (or above all) reflects the concern about losing control of one’s destiny in the face of globalization and the financing of capitalism, which were also the other major drivers of Brexit, and whose proponents have argued about the need to regain control?

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definitely. If we place Brexit in the broader context of the well-known populist movements in Europe, we can only note, as they rightly do, that the question of resuming the control of their lives by the populations concerned is indeed absolutely necessary. In this sense, populism, at least as it exists in Europe today, is essentially the political translation of this desire in people to take their destiny into their own hands.

To do this in relation to the phenomenon of emigration, no doubt, but the phenomenon translates into something more general, because for these people it is a matter of reasserting their autonomy (autos-nomos), that is, the possibility of reforming themselves in short, the rules which are essential on their territory for the defense of their sovereignty. Faced with a globalization which he sometimes feels reluctantly thrown in, and thus submits to without being able to make himself heard, globalization which escapes him even more because its financialisation, which it provokes, makes it more and more difficult to master, these people want to be heard by their leaders.

So, in a very classic way, as in many other cases, we see that the possibility given to people to express themselves, opening some kind of safety valve, reduces tension in a particular country and reduces extremism in some. This is exactly what John Stuart Mill explained when he mentioned the need for freedom of speech, and indeed it is necessary on this level alone, but then, that free expression must be able to lead to free political choice.

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Thus, the effect of Brexit was undoubtedly the restoration of the confidence of the British people in the workings of their democracy and in the possibility of regaining control when and however they wanted, which takes into account the effects of some policies – including immigration – that do not exist. It is no longer seen as voluntary and/or temporary. On the contrary, a system in which people are never asked to give their opinions on choices which the latter nevertheless consider necessary, or better, in which they sarcastically refuse to consider the options expressed, would keep pressure on their population. This can not only lead to an extreme of options, at the risk of seeing them expressive in the most brutal way. But will it still be a democracy?

Dani Rodrik recently stated in Le Monde that “the rise of authoritarian populism is linked to the disappearance of good jobs in the middle class.” Is the economic and social explanation more specific than the cultural explanation as it develops?

The Turkish economist has actively developed for years this distinction between political populism, which he condemns, at least in its form of “authoritarian populism” – what we sometimes call “illiberal democracies” – and economic populism that appears to be so. In the first antidote. This “economic populism” aims, first, to allow everyone to find a job, but, then, to find a satisfying and rewarding job, in short, something very different from the famous nonsense jobs that are repeated more and more. Let’s get over it: sometimes such citizens desire not such improvements for themselves, but also, and perhaps above all, for their children, in the hope that they will be able to get a better life out of theirs. When the system is disrupted by outlawing this “economic populism,” the massive sense of demotion that results in it disrupts the functioning of society itself, pushing either anomaly or extremism, and paving the way for this “populism.” authoritarian” which thus seems to some the only possible way.

Does this mean that we can summarize the imbalances of our societies in an economic and social interpretation and ignore the cultural aspect? Dani Rodrik, who does not hesitate to recall the importance that nations take in the very context of globalization, does not go so far, and in fact, one can feel the cultural decline at the same time with the economic sense. discount. Admittedly, in this double loss of reference points, which becomes a constant concern of the individual, one might think that the stability of one makes it possible to mitigate the effects of the instability of the other, but that in addition to often go hand in hand, they tend to follow each other As a major concern depending on the events.

althoug,Let’s not fool ourselves here any more than by examining British opinion polls. If conditions of material comfort, potential access to remunerative work, and the certainty that one’s children will have a chance to advance to the level to which their abilities can reach them, can indeed help smooth things out, one cannot think that the fractures we currently know in France Or in Europe it is caused by the only social truth, nor that its only modification will make it possible to solve it. There is no vile, however indispensable instrument of the city, as for the time being assembling the little white of peripheral France, and this red neck forgotten and despised as its transatlantic counterpart, and representative of the newly arrived population, even if their purchasing power would be identical for cultural reasons . Hence, moreover, the approach of this left-wing populism in which people are not a giver but an entity that is built, or Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s call to “pigment” our society, all these dreams of an undifferentiated people shared by the totalitarians. Powers, technocratic utopians and representatives of globalized economic interests.

Do these root causes of the nature of identity fears explain in part why Marine Le Pen beat Eric Zemmour?

This is part of the answer that can be asked, provided it is done in a very specific way, and without being overly generalizing. From the moment Eric Zemmour focused most of his speech during the presidential campaign on this anxiety arising from the loss of cultural identity, it made a lot of sense to see Marine Le Pen, who until then sees part of her themes – even this one for some time that has passed in the background – Preempted by his rival, regressed back to the other element, this social reduction is summed up by the question of purchasing power, but it goes well beyond that.

It should be noted that this also changed the situation with regard to the media, because today it is easier to express oneself in the second question than in the first, to complain about the decline in the purchasing power of the individual or to worry about his social media. Underestimating, rather than provoking not only the fight against immigration, always suspected of giving center stage to racism, but even cultural insecurity only in a society torn and weakened by woki perpetually accusing Western culture, and forcing perpetual penance on our fellow citizens. Marine Le Pen’s speech, thus becoming less “split”, was able to make himself better audible, before the campaign for the second round called again around him along the poles and antennas and, without surprise, “the darkest hour in our history.

But it would undoubtedly be an exaggeration to draw from this already old interpretation the lesson of any political supremacy of the question of economic or social identity over cultural identity. As we have already said in fact, apart from the fact that the two often support each other more than oppose each other, they simply follow each other in classifying the essential questions according to current events. Let’s wait. “Tomorrow is another day,” Tara’s mistress would say.

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