This is about the UK referendum on EU membership. It’ll meander back an forth across some issues as it’s more an ideas and concerns barf than a rational argument aimed to persuade, so apologies if it’s a chaotic and incoherent at times. These are the issues that I hear people talking about; issues about populations, migration and sovereignty that are easier to understand than the economic ones that even the ‘experts’ can’t give clear answers to.
Here’s a quick summary, with short videos, that explains the organisation of the EU and the powers of its various bodies. Use it as a primer if you’re not sure what the EU is about: BBC’s EU Introduction.
Plenty of people that want to remain in this complex and not exactly representative EU political system are the same people that complain that the UK government is unrepresentative because the Conservatives received less than 50% of the vote in the last UK election. Feelings on self-governance seem to be confused by ideological positions.
The fear of the economic uncertainty is the story that #Remain want to sell. Several non-EU European nations do quite well on the outside. But, if they were honest, both sides would have to admit their economic predictions are speculation.
It’s really about sovereignty, directly elected representation … and … population management.
The free movement of people should be a welcome idea from anyone that values the ability to travel, work and do business across the whole of Europe. Isolationism has always been a divisive force that is used to tell us how bad those other people are.
But it’s not plain sailing. There are problems that arise when nation states have different systems for health and social welfare. Of course poorer or sicker migrants will move to the more wealthy and generous nations if they can.
Even so, on the whole, secular liberal democracies of Europe with reasonably similar cultures are a result of the movement of people across Europe for centuries. From the Romans to the 19th Century of marriages among the monarchies, Europeans have found ways of mixing that have worked out reasonably well – putting aside periodic wars and the persecution of minorities. The goals of the EU after WWII were not only economic. It was hope that closer union would prevent future wars.
But changes to populations that are too rapid don’t give enough time for the society to respond – unemployment rises, wages are depressed because poorer migrants will work for less, the housing shortage becomes more critical, leading to more land being built upon, leading to greater demand for roads and transport, shops and schools. Our economies value economic growth, but it that’s matched by population growth there’s no net benefit, just more people consuming more resources polluting the planet for ever more people.
The UK is one of the most densely populated members of the EU. Put aside Scotland and Wales, with their relatively low population densities, and a few uninhabitable hills, and the population density of England is even greater. London, the greatest of all.
Compared to two other powerful EU states, the UK is full. Germany could take another 13 million people to reach the population density of the UK. France? 81 million.
And, what about migration from outside the EU? The EU screwed up massively recently, by confusing genuine refugee status with economic migrant status.
A few short years ago nobody other than some global hippies and anarchists would have thought it sensible for the EU states to open their borders to anyone. Can you imagine any airport entry control simply opening the gates and letting anyone in without checking passports?
Has there been a great call to get rid of these airport border controls? Has there been a great cry to open up all land borders to anyone from anywhere?
A key dissuader to mass migration into Europe has been how arduous the journey is, and how likely that in small numbers you will to fail and be turned back. Even so, in very small numbers even leaky borders are manageable. Our populations can absorb some illegal immigrants.
That changed with the Syrian crisis.
There are genuine refugees that need our help. Any of the persecuted minorities, as well as the old, the very young and the sick, too vulnerable to stay in camps: the EU can play a part and take them and give them a home.
The problem started when economic migrants – the ones that we would otherwise have no trouble rejecting or limiting – mingled with the genuine Syrian refugees. And when refugees from Syria that had a safe haven in Turkey decided to join the economic migrants, then that’s what started a mass illegal migration to Europe. Even the regular North African sea routes gained momentum as a result. Europe had opened its doors.
And once a child’s body washed up, that was enough to prick the consciences of Europe so that they completely lost sight of the bigger picture.
But, what’s the problem? Above, I’ve already pointed out that the large EU states with population densities much lower than the UK technically have room for large numbers, many millions.
It’s not that simple. Again, the rate of increase causes the problem, along with the fact that the migrants aren’t the educated people that the EU has been welcoming to satisfy some skills shortages. These economic migrants present a mix of problems: uneducated to the standards required for employment; they have language problems; they have significant cultural differences that clash with what has become a pan-European secular liberal democracy.
The problem with Angela Merkel’s generosity is that once a citizen of the EU, then they are free to come to the UK too.
This is the compounded problem that is a result of our inability to control our own borders. In principle we have an open border with the EU states, but if the EU states have an open border with the world, then we have no border to speak of.
The Prime Minister has been telling us how well he’s been doing in negotiating on our behalf for a greater say in our border independence. But all that takes years, and in the mean time the rush is on.
It isn’t the EU that’s going to manage migration, but individual member states, and states that border the EU. The slow cumbersome EU is busy reprimanding those states that have taken a harder stand to stop entry and turn people back, while breathing a sigh of relief that someone else has temporarily prevented migration in even larger numbers.
In Germany, Sweden and other EU states there have been many problems that have resulted from clashes between migrants and local people. It hardly reaches our regular news outlets, but it’s there to see if you look for it. Sexual assaults in the the street, or in swimming pools, assaults of social workers helping the migrants, and the failure of the police to act (and even the fear of the police to enter some parts of some cities) has hardened the locals.
A direct consequence of these failures has led to a reactionary boost for the far right groups. Many ordinary decent citizens of Europe now march along with the less savoury elements of the right, because the socialist left flatly refuses to acknowledge the problems caused by high rates of immigration from cultures that are significantly different to the secular liberal democratic EU.
The pity is that many of the migrants will be people who really do value western secular liberal democracy, after having lived under dictators and fascistic theocracies. There are many people that were born outside this country that have made great contributions to it. Genuine xenophobia is unhealthy. But that’s not what we’re seeing.
Many people that are immigrants or descendants of recent immigrants are in favour of leaving the EU. In the midst of some internecine battles of the two sides, it’s been encouraging to see unexpected allies on each side.
My own preference would be, and has been for many years, to remain in the EU and make it better, more accountable, more flexible. But currently that seems too slow a process, while in the meantime that behemoth that is the EU marches on to ever greater political and military union, and, it seems, with a willingness to sell its soul in order to placate the US administration, and pander to US business just to get access to US markets.
The Roman Empire became too big and unmanageable and failed. Napoleon’s Europe was too big to handle. Hitler stretched himself too thin. The USSR failed. The Islamic Caliphates failed. The British Empire became too big for its boots. Even the US, that basically started from scratch with a virgin Constitution, still had problems balancing the federal and state governance, and still does. It’s had a civil war, and many in the South might not object to another, if cessation was at all possible. Large political systems are more difficult to manage than smaller ones. We don’t have the geographic limitations of transport that earlier empires had to cope with, but we have a hell of a lot more people.
The nation state has been for a long time the most manageable compromise between individual and local freedom on the one hand and the larger collective interest on the other. There might be a time in the future when massive, even global governance starts to look promising. We’re not ready yet. Trading groups are not governments, and pretenders to the EU’s throne have been screwing up to such an extent that it is questionable whether the EU is beneficial or detrimental to its citizens.
On the whole, and until recently, I’d have taken the chance and said the benefits are worth it, and the problems can be fixed. The EU Parliament needs to be more representative and have greater control, and there needs to be less behind the scenes deal making that really is undemocratic. But we could solve these problems, in a reasonable time.
The stupid open borders cock-up, mainly by Germany, still guilt racked whenever it sees a line of people looking persecuted, has changed the game, and I’m not sure it can be fixed. This piece explains some of the german approach that sounds generous but creates an agenda that discourages questioning: Germany’s Syrian Refugee Crisis.
I’d like to see far more progress on this one issue before I had to vote – but that’s not a luxury I have. Even at this late stage I’ve been undecided. My heart wants to be part of Europe – I consider myself to be a European. The Germans of today, our fellow secular liberal democratic Europeans, whose parents and grand parents were seduced by pan-European empire, are now our friends. Even Pegida is a pan-European co-operative organisation – it’s not a matter of being anti-Europe, xenophobic, racist, despite what some dishonest proponents of #Remain claim..
The Czech premier also made it clear that it’s not about racism or xenophobia – all European nations have flourishing communities from disparate cultures from around the world.
The key is integration and assimilation. If there’s one key ‘European value’ that’s common across Europe that’s now the secular liberal democracy model. It’s one we value because it’s about the most tolerant any society has ever been when gathered in such large numbers.
But the toleration can backfire when you tolerate the intolerant. And we have to name the problem. Islam is an intolerant political religion. Read the Quran and its clear. And don’t try any what-aboutery. What about the Bible? The Bible isn’t a solitary book authored by one man, taken to be inerrant and valid for all time and a complete manual for living, theologically, politically, judicially. The occasional nod to toleration in the Quran comes at a price – it is very clearly and emphatic about Muslim privilege and superiority. It is a fascistic book.
Are all Muslims to be tarred by this book? No. There are many nominal enforced Muslims that would be non-Muslims if they could be, if they could avoid the threat Islam holds over their necks. On entering Europe some take the opportunity to leave Islam, to be free atheists, or to convert to another religion – something that’s anything from difficult to impossible in their home lands. Why wouldn’t we welcome people wanting to be free?
Many Muslims are secular liberal and democratic at heart – some, the reformers, explicitly so, in that they acknowledge the problems with the inerrancy principle. Why wouldn’t we welcome them?
Others seem to avoid talking about the Quran’s anti-liberal anti-democratic demands. Many, far too many, stick to the Quranic message – non-Muslims aren’t worth squat, and will, one way or another, submit to Islam. Many Muslims living in the EU may accept they live in secular liberal democracies, but they are very clear about how much they would prefer to see the collapse of this western system and the rise of Islamic values, even Sharia.
In the west we have, for various reasons, chosen to have smaller families. This isn’t all about an altruistic regard for the planet’s capacity to support is. For whatever reason our ‘nuclear family’ has become a one, two and three child family, and as a result it’s easier to manage a stable economy, and it’s less threatening to the planet and the resources we use. There are enough small families to allow some others to have more than three children without threatening a continued population explosion. But in many parts of the world large families are the norm, and when backed by a religious ideology that values large families as a means of expanding the religion, it’s clear that migrant families from outside the west are going to be the cause of a growth in western populations. It could be argued that the Roman Catholic church already encourages large families in Europe and the Christian world, and though this is true generally, the European culture doesn’t encourage very large families. When it comes to Islam, there’s a strong religious-cultural force that encourages larger families; and some Islamic voices demand they have them in order to spread Islam.
Just one point on this issue of family size. The first response to this is often, “I’m from a large family. You’re saying I shouldn’t have been born?”
No. Whoever happens to have been born is just as valuable a human life as any. And of course no child chose to be born. Having a policy of encouraging small families is not to discriminate against members of large families. This seems off topic, but it’s a pity that this sort of explanation is even necessary – but there you go, some people miss the point and misunderstand the argument.
All this is where the EU governance problems, population dynamics, and high rates of uncontrolled immigration from Islamic states comes together at this crucial time for residents of the UK.
Can we stay in the EU and change its position on migration to suit what we and some other states want? Or are we doomed to succumb to the demands of the EU bureaucracy where some powerfully connected people get to decide what we can and can’t do. You think the Conservative government doesn’t represent you, and yet the EU does?
After finding no answers to the general economic questions about being in or out, I’m left pondering these few issues of sovereignty, population and migration. In the end I’m drawn to an inclusive Europe, and the UK’s willingness to make it better. For me it’s important we retain our secular liberal democratic politics and progressive tolerant and welcoming nature. But to sustain that, we Europeans must be in control of European immigration and must not be blackmailed by forced migrations.
Europe is in a great position to help developing nations in the Middle East and North Africa, and we can continue, as a bloc, to encourage the spread of secular liberal democracy. But to be able to help others we must make sure we are safe ourselves. If European secular liberal democracies go down the tubes, there will be nowhere nearby worth migrating to.
I don’t have any worries about the UK’s ability to go it alone. The issue is whether I want us to. In the end I’ve decided I want to stay in Europe and struggle for Europe. If anything this referendum has encouraged me to take a greater interest in the EU than I have taken in the past. I’m voting to stay in.
Here are some other resources that address the specific issue of the immigration of large numbers of Muslims that do not share our European values.. I hope they help. They include both warnings, and some encouragement.
Lebanese expat describes Islamification of Germany – This perspective shows that the ‘Islamification of Europe’ is a realistic concern. O course it’s not just about Europe, since Muslim piety and conservatives has risen around the wider Islamic world as a number of groups, like The Muslim Brotherhood, Whabist Saudi, the iranian government and many smaller groups taken the Islamist political Jihad on board.
President Zeman of the Czech Republic speaks on Islam and mass immigration – “We have permitted the right wing, at times the extreme right wing, to steal the theme which used to belong historically to social justice. And that is the theme: the protection of national interest and the defence of European values. And we are putting up the face of peoples who had forgotten their past.”
Sweden’s backlash: Why the tide is turning for refugees – Talk to Al Jazeera In The Field – The response of European societies that have had to deal with the increased immigration of unemployable people has started to change them from the idealistic open arms, that always relied on small numbers, and only ever worked for genuine refugees, into the more cautious one that count the cost of their generosity.
Islam and democracy: What’s the problem? – We mustn’t forget that Europe isn’t the sole bastion of liberal democracy in this hemisphere. There are plenty of secular liberal democrats in the Muslim world. They have a greater struggle that we do. I’m often a critic of Mehdi Hasan and his anti-western rhetoric, but here he facilitates a good debate among Muslims as diverse as anyone. I still thank that Islam is in principle incompatible with secular liberal democracy, if interpreted as many Islamic states do; but this shows that despite the Quran and the uniform Muslim endorsement of it, many Muslims can ignore its more bigoted parts.
What We Don’t Know About Europe’s Muslim Kids and Why We Should Care | Deeyah Khan | TEDxExeter – Deeyah Khan has been helping to raise awareness about the influence of radical and extremist Islam on our European children from immigrant families.