Commentary: Immigration was the real issue behind Brexit

Leaving aside the economic questions, what is the real message from the British vote to leave the European Union?

With both the American and European stock markets plunging, the usual pundits are wailing about an upcoming big recession. But this is not the message from Brexit, or British exit. It seems glaringly obvious that the real issue for the pro-Brexit voters was immigration.

And to the extent the parallel is valid, this is not good news for the pro-amnesty advocates in American politics. You can discern for yourself who they are, and who they aren’t.

Reid K. Beveridge

Reid K. Beveridge

To refresh readers’ memories, the European Union is composed of 28 nations. These range all the way from quite large nations like Germany, France and Great Britain to small ones like Greece, Belgium and the Netherlands to tiny ones like Luxembourg.

The historic idea behind the European Union began shortly after World War II, the second all-out war to convulse Europe in the 20th century. The concept evolved from the first community, which was called the European Coal and Steel Community. Then came the Common Market, and now, what we see today. Originally, the goal was at least twofold.

First, it was to tie European nations together economically in a way that would discourage future wars. Europe has been a pretty bloody and warlike place since the fall of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century A.D.

Economic union was followed by a drive for political union. The European Parliament came into being, although it doesn’t do much. However, the EU did set up a big “national” headquarters in Brussels, with unknown scores of bureaucrats dictating certain policies to member nations.

Then came the common currency, the Euro. Almost all EU nations adopted it, abandoning their historic currencies, like the German mark or the French franc. In perhaps a forewarning of the Brexit vote, the British did not. They stuck with the pound sterling, always one of the major world currencies. This is true in part because London remains one of only two cities with major, very large investment banks. The Bank of England is one. Barclays is another. The only other city with banks like this is New York.

The final element, which has suddenly become the EU’s greatest weakness, was the elimination of borders. This eliminates the hassle of everyone having to stop at every border, including both ordinary drivers, as well as freight. No need for a passport within the EU. Border stations closed and were boarded up.

The downside to this policy has been clear for a year or two with the vast hordes of Middle Eastern and African folks who have flooded into Europe. Immediately, they head for the nicer and more prosperous places like Germany, Great Britain and Scandinavian countries. In addition, Great Britain has had a rather generous immigration policy for years. Also, many European nations that had colonies allow the citizens of those colonies to immigrate to the “mother country” without much restriction.

And even beyond that, nations like Germany have long accepted foreign guest workers from places like Turkey. This has been true in Germany for nearly 50 years. However, these folks are guest workers, not citizens. These nations often have very difficult standards for gaining citizenship, quite a contrast to the United States.

All this would have been fine, or at least, acceptable, until the flood of immigrants began arriving from Syria and Iraq. But even before that, the most dangerous factor already had been identified. This is assimilation, or rather, the lack of it.

Historically, immigrants to the United States have come here to become Americans. For the most part, they did not look back nor did they wish to return. If they didn’t speak English, they tried to learn. The children did learn because they went to public school.

This is not how it worked in Europe. There, the immigrants congregated in their own communities and spoke their native languages. The Paris and Brussels suburbs are well-known for being Arab and Muslim. The French police deny it, but it is said that many such neighborhoods are “no-go” zones for the French police. Rather, they are policed by their own folks under Sharia law.

It already is being said that the European Union is a creation and creature of the European elites. The common folk, the ordinary voters, are far more nationalistic. This same factor is a large part of Donald J. Trump’s appeal in the United States. However, the American elites in Boston, New York and Washington do not see it.

Yes, the economy had something to do with it. But the real driver, and the one most mentioned by pro-exit advocates in the Netherlands and France, is something else. We might call it not “immigration,” but “invasion.” Syrians don’t come to European nations to be Germans or Belgian. They come to make Belgium more like Syria.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Reid K. Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired at Broadkill Beach. Beveridgere@prodigy.net.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.