Defending Brexit

By Stefan Golas

(Jeff Djevdet/ Flickr)
(Jeff Djevdet/ Flickr)

To the surprise of even those most strongly in favor of Brexit, the citizens of the United Kingdom voted by referendum to leave the European Union this past summer. The decision was strongly criticized by politicians and media outlets across the world, and almost immediately resulted in economic fallout affecting not only the U.K. itself, but also a number of other European nations.

Compounding the financial damage which arose in the wake of Brexit were myriad allegations of racism and xenophobia directed at those in favor of the “leave” vote, seemingly vindicated by an upsurge of anti­immigrant hate crimes occurring the day after the referendum. The decision to leave the European Union seemed to be becoming less defensible by the day.

In spite of the political and financial turmoil wrought by the referendum result, Brexit nevertheless represents a clear victory for democracy and national sovereignty, and I believe the passage of time will be the greatest factor in demonstrating the wisdom of the “leave” decision.

I should here note that I am not writing in support of any particular individual or organization that campaigned for Brexit, as my knowledge of British politics is woefully insufficient to pass any such judgments. I advise my fellow students to refrain likewise from presuming to hold an opinion based only on the flimsiest of hearsay on any individuals or groups in British politics before ample research is conducted.

The most contentious issue surrounding Brexit is that of immigration policy and border control, and whether Britons have a right to impose controls beyond those set out by the EU. The European Court of Justice, the highest court of the EU, has declared that “Union Citizenship is destined to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States,” superseding citizenship of any particular nation, and that an EU citizen has an automatic right to residence in any EU member nation, regardless of financial stability or even knowledge of the home country’s language.

In addition, EU citizens may vote in local elections and receive social services from a host country regardless of their nation of origin. It is illegal for a host nation to discriminate in the distribution of welfare benefits with regard to national origin, and under EU law, a natural­born citizen is as entitled to social services as a migrant who does not speak the native language or has contributed minimally, if at all, in taxes. Not only are the EU criteria under which a migrant may receive social services fairly lax and ambiguous, member nations are forbidden from enacting any additional criteria.

The European Court of Justice actually prosecuted the United Kingdom for requiring an additional non­EU test for those looking to receive unemployment benefits, demonstrating that laws imposed non­democratically by their foreign court carry more legal weight than those set out by locally elected officials. To those who opposed Brexit: is this a system you would personally prefer to live under?

Although many studies have shown that immigrants do not cost more in social services than native­born citizens, there are a number of other reasons why a U.K. citizen might be in favor of stronger border controls than what is currently allowed under EU law. For example, it is very likely that an immigrant from a highly religious theocracy might not appreciate the dearly paid­for separation of church and state that we now enjoy, or that an immigrant from a communist dictatorship might not have a full understanding of liberty or legal equality. Therefore, it is in the self­interest of people in the U.K. to ensure that all immigrants have the same respect for these values, which have taken centuries to develop and for which many thousands of people have sacrificed their lives to preserve, as any native­born would.

Presently, any regulation which attempts to instill or test for these values in incoming migrants is illegal under EU law. Even the United States, which accepts more immigrants per year than any other country and is a very diverse country, administers a basic 10­question citizenship test to all prospective immigrants. As stated previously, such a test would be illegal under EU law. I ask those who opposed Brexit: would the US be better off without such a test? Would the US be better off if such a test were to be made illegal, along with any other rudimentary immigration controls?

You do not have to be a xenophobic racist to be in favor of Brexit. You do not even have to oppose immigration in the slightest, as I personally do not. You must simply recognize that a nation’s laws lay solely in the hands of its people rather than those of foreign bureaucrats.

Stefan Golas is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]