Beauchamp: Brexit not about economics, it’s about xenophobia
Xenophobia exists in basically every country on Earth. The UK is no exception: Polling data shows high levels of hostility to immigrants going back decades before mass immigration began. But the huge increase in immigration in the past 20 years made this sentiment politically potent, fueling an anti-immigrant backlash.
Over the course of the past 20 years, the percentage of Britons ranking “immigration/race relations” as among the country’s most important issues has gone from near zero percent to about 45 percent. Seventy-seven percent of Brits today believe that immigration levels should be reduced.
As a result, anti-immigrant demagoguery has become politically potent. The UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by a Donald Trump-style populist demagogue named Nigel Farage, began life as an irrelevant anti-EU party in the early ’90s. But in the past 10 years, UKIP’s poll numbers have soared: It got 4 million votes in the 2015 election, thethird-largest national vote total in the country.