Letter: Remain won't win the argument if it doesn't reshape the debate on immigration

PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 April 2018

Placards and flags are held by pro-EU protesters taking part in a March for Europe rally against Brexit in central London.

Placards and flags are held by pro-EU protesters taking part in a March for Europe rally against Brexit in central London.

PA Wire/PA Images

Anette Schweizer argues that Remain needs to put a positive spin on freedom of movement to win the argument...

I moved to the UK from Germany five years ago and live in a small market town in the East Midlands, in an average, middle-classy residential area. I love talking to all sorts of people from different backgrounds in order to understand my new home: young & old, male & female, rich & poor, left & right.

The most they have in common is that they are all white, and British – simply due to the fact that there are not many “foreigners” in our town.

But this does not stop people from telling me that there are too many immigrants here. They see their identity, their culture, their values, their economy, their NHS, their schools, their everything threatened by those “masses” of foreigners – even though only 5% of the local population was born in another country (2.5% EU, 2.5% non-EU).

None of the people I have talked to has had any personal bad experiences with immigrants, but they all ‘know’ that immigration is responsible for all their problems.

After the referendum the local (previously Remain) Tory MP wrote an article in the local newspaper in which he thanked EU immigrants for their contributions, but then added that EU migrants suppressed the wages of local people and were a threat to the social cohesion of the local community.

This in a town with below 1% unemployment.

In my view, as long as Remain does not manage to put a positive spin on freedom of movement and immigration, as long as it lets xenophobes frame this debate, it is doomed to lose the argument.

Anette Schweizer

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