The current thrusting to the fore of immigration as a political issue is something that has been bubbling away for a long time, and from which politicians have often run. Yet at its heart is the fundamental question over sovereignty, and the question: where does power lie?
The Conservative Party could do well to recognise that the problem is not so much in the numbers of immigrants arriving, as the theoretical fact that European Union treaties prevent Britain from controlling her own borders to restrict the arrival of people claiming to be workers (Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU).
This flies in the face of our national story. It may be reading history backwards, but there has been a slow historical narrative of centralised power being moved lower-down to the people, and of sovereignty – and ultimately the right to shape your own destiny – being placed more and more in the hands of the British people. Magna Carta from 1215 saw the King forced to share his power with his noblemen; the Black Death shook the foundations of the feudal system; the reformation cut off the claims of European powers; the Stuarts saw the monarch die at the people’s hands, and then return – but with far more parliamentary oversight; while the Hanoverians allowed parliament to burst forth in its own right. The last few centuries have seen universal suffrage and the most recent referendum-induced changes look like pushing the regions of Britain to the fore.
We should not forget American Independence either, for this act of rebellion was in fact a culmination of the British ideal of freedom by the British who had emigrated; and the unity between Britain and America during the Cold War was testament to the vision of a world based on freedom against serfdom.
The hollow present
Yet despite this powerful narrative, the political class offer nothing to inspire anyone, abdicating authority to unelected Commissioners. The Scottish ‘yes’ campaign lost the vote, but won the campaign; Putin’s regime has left Russia economically vulnerable, but redefined Russian identity, leaving Putin untouchable in the polls; and young, wealthy, rich Britons are happy to leave and fight and die in the squalor of the wastelands created by the Islamic State terrorist group. They offer nothing rational, yet have received great support. The EU-dream – the badly-conceived offer of an illusory future, winning hearts in the same way as ideas such as communism and socialism deceive people – has done little to inspire modern Europeans.
Islamic State estimates that over 3000 Europeans have willingly volunteered to die in the squalor of their ranks. This fact sinks the Left's arguments that economics produce all social ills. While poverty is indeed a part of the problem, it is not poverty that has driven rich and wealthy Britons to leave their potential in order to terrorise innocent people. The challenge facing Britain’s politicians is to inspire people with a purpose that marks them out as unique.
The Victorians had a genuine belief that they were blessing the world; it gave them confidence and meaning. What can Westminster offer Britain other than talk of economic growth? What is Britain’s purpose? To educate the world? To bring trade, commerce and prosperity to the world, reducing conflict? Or to be suffocated within a block of 28 EU states without the ability to make fundamental rules to govern ourselves in areas such as customs, competition, fisheries and commerce (Article 3 of TFEU), and being secondary members to the decision-making process in internal market, economic, social, agricultural, environmental, transport and energy policy areas (Articles 2.2 and 4 of TFEU). And, of course, Britain always runs the risk of being outvoted in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers.
Lack of purpose
This lack of purpose comes from a deeper lack of values and belief, exacerbated by the issue of immigration. Allowing anyone in Europe to immigrate to the UK devalues the concept of being a British subject, and turns citizenship into a consumer product. Promotion of the principle of Freedom of Movement (as in Article 3:2 of the Treaty on European Union – TEU) has put pressure on the providers of social services, forced down wages and threatened social cohesion. If someone does not have to release their old identity to be British, it allows for the creation of the current situation in which parts of modern society genuinely believe the media are misrepresenting ISIS. For the Left, uncontrolled immigration was a gift. It eventually worked to create a clientele of voters and erode the traditions and conservative fabric of Britain.
For the European Commission, the mixing of the peoples of Europe was to dilute identity and forge supranational citizenship, facilitating the process of power moving to Brussels. Instead, right-wing parties across Europe are stirring. By continuing to permit immigration from Europe that allows old mind-sets to come with the migrant, without any requirement for change, is storing up problems for the future. These problems are never planned or predicted, because long-term consequences to radical change rarely can be. It is often not among the first migrants that problems arise, but among their alienated offspring, lost between two cultures.
Without changed attitudes, migration can serve to simply weaken the internal cohesion, forged over history in response to common events, of a society; undermining the EU’s own Treaty obligation in Article 3 TEU. The problem of alienated communities in Britain is fostered by the erosion of the Judeo-Christian heritage of the country. Tolerance can only exist if we know against what values we are being tolerant. The EU has been a part of this: Article 2 of the TEU states that “…pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality…” prevail in Europe; yet the Treaty of Lisbon, despite a campaign led by the Catholic Church and others, excluded mention of the one unifying factor in Europe – the Christian heritage – and presumed that these ‘universal values’ arose of their own accord. The UK’s attractiveness is due to the foundation of Christianity and law. People want to live here because they know that contracts will be honoured, justice will be done and rights will be respected. But those people choosing that have to choose the whole package: with the benefits, come the obligations. EU law has watered down the guarantees offered by Britain: the Directive 2000/78/EC intrudes into the personal, demanding to govern the conscience of people (see the news stories on the Christians in Northern Ireland being persecuted for declining to bake a pro-gay cake).
As right-wing groups arise threatening the fundamental requirement that we help the distressed migrant and do not persecute those who settle among us, the challenge remains for our politicians to regain control of our borders to choose which migrants have earned the right to live in Britain (and possibly introduce a law to deny passports to those native-born people who jettison their citizenship through vile actions), and to provide a compelling vision for the future that will set Britain free of European meddling and unite this fractured island to assert herself once more on the global stage.