Barely a week to go until the
Tory Party leadership contest EU referendum and the
negativity continues apace. The best
argument that the remain campaign can come up with, apparently, is that leaving
will cost us too much. The effect may
not be quite what they intend – every time I hear someone saying that, the
subliminal message for me is that “we’d
like to leave really, we just can’t afford it”. Uninspiring is too modest a word.
It’s been clear from the outset that the main issue for many was always going to be immigration, but as the campaign moves on the issue has increasingly blatantly been brought to the forefront by the leave campaigners. Never mind that the issue is only marginally to do with the EU; underlying distrust of those strange ‘foreigners’ is something to which the unscrupulous can play in order to advance their own agenda, which in many cases is nothing at all to do with immigration as such.
Labour’s role in the campaign has been almost invisible until this week; they have allowed the whole issue to be played out largely between the Tory Government and the Tory Opposition. And when they do finally try and get some sort of campaign going, what do we get? Blind – and almost certainly misplaced – faith in the ability of Gordon Brown to persuade anybody of anything, and an almost complete capitulation to the anti-immigration theme of the outers.
Yesterday, Labour seemed to want to stress that, even if the UK votes to remain, free movement of people has to stop. No attempt at all to discuss the positive aspects of free movement of people, from which many in the UK have benefited. Free movement is seen, by all concerned, as a one-sided ‘problem’ of people being drawn into the UK, and not as something which also gives freedom to all of us.
Where is the attempt to rebut the claim that immigration is changing the nature of the country? Most immigrants to the UK seem to want to integrate rapidly; they want to learn English and become part of the communities in which they live. (It’s interesting to contrast that with the approach of many people from the UK who move to the Costas or the Dordogne – or English people moving to north and west Wales, come to that. There are object lessons there for anyone who really wants to see how ‘immigration’ can change the culture of a society.)There has been an almost complete lack of a positive case for pan-European co-operation and unity, virtually no discussion of how the EU might develop and change, and a lack of a specifically Welsh debate around the best future for this small nation. Sadly, momentum is moving in the direction of the outers, and it looks as though the result in Wales will be little different from that in England. Scotland may yet save us from ourselves.