Friday, 6 May 2016

The Guardian: Why is the Brexit camp so obsessed with immigration? Because that’s all they have

The Guardian: Why is the Brexit camp so obsessed with immigration? Because that’s all they have

by Peter Mandelson

"From Johnson questioning President Obama’s “part-Kenyan ancestry” to EU migrants being blamed for the problems in everything from British schools to our health service to our prisons, every recent Vote Leave intervention has had immigration at its heart.

Should we be disappointed by this change in tone? Yes. Should we be worried? No. As Vote Leave spokesman Robert Oxley once perceptively said: “The one thing you know is that people care more about their jobs than they do about migration.” Swallowing the nasty Ukip strategy wholesale may energise the rightwing base of the leave campaign but I cannot see it being enough to persuade more than half of the voting public to take a leap in the dark in quitting the EU. People want to know what will happen to their jobs, their pay packets and their weekly shopping bill more than they want to hear abusive rhetoric and nationalistic myths.

Why the change in strategy then? Because what little economic credibility leave campaigners had was shredded by George Osborne and Obama in the space of a week. First the Treasury showed that quitting the EU’s single market would take 6% out of our GDP and leave a £36bn black hole in our public finances. Leave campaigners had no answer to the Treasury’s finding that Brexit would cost every household an average of £4,300 a year. Obama then stepped in to make it clear that, once out of the EU, the rest of the world did not offer salvation. Even America, he said, Britain’s special friend, would put us at the back of the queue in future trade priorities."

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