Archive

June 23rd, 2016

Understanding the anti-immigrant mindset

    As Britain decides whether to leave the European Union, it is clear that one issue created the greatest source of tension: immigration.

    British attitudes toward immigration have been changing for some time, and especially since the European Union expanded to include many of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, in 1995, 63 percent of the British public were in favor of reducing immigration. By 2008, this had risen to 78 percent, where it has stabilized.

    For a country built on a long history of inward migration -- from the Flemish textile workers of the 14th century through the Commonwealth workers of the 20th -- this change has been surprising and has been attributed to economic unease. But this may not be the case.

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When politicians light xenophobic fires, everybody gets burned

    One of more vexing questions about Thursday's Brexit vote is, "Why is it occurring?"

    If Prime Minister David Cameron is so convinced that Britain exiting the European Union would be such a tremendous existential mistake, why was he the one who called for the referendum three years ago? Even as recent polls may be slightly tilting toward favoring the Remainers, does this not stand as a huge political misstep, an own-goal kick in an already close game, an injection of unnecessary uncertainty into already complex economic and political relationship?

    There are compelling arguments on both sides, and yes, I'm operating with 20/20 hindsight. But in calling for this referendum as a political preservation strategy, Cameron, like many of our own conservatives, failed to assess a set of dangerous risks, most notably, the unleashing and legitimizing of deep anti-immigrant sentiments.

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Here's what we want

    As we head toward the Democratic National Convention, I often hear the question, "What does Bernie want?" Wrong question. The right question is what the 12 million Americans who voted for a political revolution want.

    And the answer is: They want real change in this country, they want it now and they are prepared to take on the political cowardice and powerful special interests which have prevented that change from happening.

    They understand that the United States is the richest country in the history of the world, and that new technology and innovation make us wealthier every day. What they don't understand is why the middle class continues to decline, 47 million of us live in poverty and many Americans are forced to work two or three jobs just to cobble together the income they need to survive.

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The Brits have no good options on Europe vote

    British voters face a momentous choice on Thursday, when they'll vote on whether to remain in the European Union. A decision to leave might badly hurt the economy, which relies on Europe for trade and investment -- but the repercussions would go wider than that.

    The larger European project would also be in danger. An enterprise that secured peace on the continent after World War II, moved hundreds of millions of people toward greater prosperity, and helped entrench liberal democracy in Eastern Europe after the Soviet collapse would be gravely damaged.

    The risks are huge -- yet recent polls show the Leave campaign is leading. Europe's governments are waking up to the fact that "Brexit" might actually happen.

    Britain faces an unsolvable dilemma. Its economic interests tell it to stay, especially since the U.K. has negotiated an advantageous status within the union: full access to Europe's integrated markets, but without the single European currency, which has proved so detrimental to the economies of many other EU members.

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Drop the 'Brexit' panic talk and protect global markets

    The doomsday narrative of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Bank of England and their official friends around the world is setting a course for a self-fulfilling financial panic. They insist that the British economy will be permanently poorer and global markets will be roiled if the British public votes to leave the European Union in a referendum on Thursday.

    These claims are based on fuzzy analysis. More seriously, they are deeply irresponsible. Make no mistake, if markets do panic it will be because of the hysteria that the officials have built up. To redeem themselves, policymakers around the world must set up visible signposts now to dampen financial turbulence.

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Brexit referendum transcends the economy

    "It's the economy, stupid." Since Bill Clinton's campaign coined that phrase nearly a quarter century ago, it has become a kind of mantra for Western politicians. I've seen it translated into multiple languages, used by politicians of the right and the left, deployed on campaigns and put into the headlines of articles.

    It has also helped reinforce, across Europe and North America, a form of politics that might ironically be described as Marxist, since it mirrors Marx's belief that "base determines superstructure," that the economy molds everything else. In election after election, candidates have argued over who is best positioned to create more wealth and greater prosperity. British elections have been fought over tax percentage points, German elections over labor mobility. Each contest was made possible by the absence of more existential issues - wars, rebellions, breakdowns in law and order - and by the assumption that most voters agreed, more or less, on the nature of the state.

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The day after Britain votes to leave EU

    Here's what the world could look like on June 24 if the "Leave" camp won the previous day's referendum on whether the U.K. should continue to be part of the European Union:

    The foreign exchange markets are in turmoil, with the pound falling 7 percent to 10 percent and the euro down about 3 percent to 5 percent. Stocks also are under considerable pressure as investors try to price in greater institutional uncertainties and the coming hit to economic growth.

    Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his resignation, leaving his Conservative Party in disarray as it tries to figure out how to unite behind a new leader after a divisive debate in the months leading up to the referendum. Scotland is looking to resurrect its bid for independence. The Irish are wondering what will happen to the free transfer of goods and people between the republic and the north.

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No 'Brexit' could mean an even bigger crisis in Europe

    British polls have swung toward an "in" vote since the murder of parliament member Jo Cox, a predictable shift toward stability. It may be time to switch from imagining post-Brexit dystopias to picturing a Europe with Britain still in it. That's almost an equally worrying sight, given what some of the EU's top officials and former architects say about European integration these days.

    You'd never expect euroskepticism from Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president who, in the early 2000s, watched over the drafting of a European Constitution, which was approved by EU heads of state in 2004 and even by some countries' voters, but killed after France and the Netherlands rejected it in referendums in 2005. The EU's current framework, the Treaty of Lisbon -- whose Article 50 would have served as the legal basis for Brexit -- is in part based on that strong federalist document. Yet Giscard now says the EU-28 is "ungovernable."

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Good tiddance to Great Britain

    Perhaps in no country in Europe is the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union feared so much by so many as the Netherlands, where I am from. The Dutch sympathy for Britain is genuine and widespread; it has old roots, as both countries, from time immemorial, have been mercantile nations, with an aversion toward protectionism. Which is to say that Dutch feelings are not representative of European feelings more broadly - nor should they be considered flattering for Britain.

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Even if Cameron wins Thursday's vote, he loses

    Nobody doubts that a vote to leave the EU on June 23 could bring enormous change in Britain's relationship with Europe and its domestic politics. But that doesn't mean that a vote to remain would bring a return to business as usual. Far from it.

    Even in the event of a strong remain vote, Prime Minister David Cameron would have new headaches: Over 40 percent of Conservative MPs who have declared a public position on the referendum are lining up to leave the EU, and this would make for a more unruly party, and even the possibility of further defections of MPs to UKIP post-the referendum. A modest vote to remain, however -- let's say somewhere between 50.1 percent and 53 percent --would mean even bigger problems.

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