As the date of the EU referendum vote draws closer and closer, polls are worryingly beginning to show the Brexit campaign stretching out in front. But do we truly understand the intentions behind the Leave campaign and the knock-on impacts a Brexit vote will have on our country?
Whilst issues such as sovereignty and the economy are bandied about in worn out campaign rhetoric, there is no doubt that the primary issue and cause célèbre of the referendum movement is immigration and its perceived impacts on society.
It is important we remember that this is a referendum that has only been made possible due to a long, hard-fought campaign by those on the far-right and political movements ridden with allegations of bigotry, xenophobia, and racism.
Nigel Farage - the UKIP leader who once said that his party “would never win the nigger vote”, refers to Chinese takeaways as “a chinky”, and said people would feel “concerned” to live next to Romanians - is the man who should take a significant chunk of the credit for us having this referendum. It was his party’s success in the European Parliament elections, as well as defections which he brokered from the Conservative Party, which has led us to this point today.
Even if you are a Leave supporter without a hateful bone inside you, you should be under no doubt that voting for Brexit would mean handing over a massive win to some of the most racist people in our society.
Some of the names and groups which are backing a Leave vote include the English Defence League; Britain First; the British National Party; Tommy Robinson; Nick Griffin; Marine Le Pen; and Donald Trump.
As a country whose strong economy is, in part, built upon centuries of disregarding the sovereignty, people, and borders of other nations during the era of the British Empire - we should, in my opinion, be a country which is more, not less, open to immigrants and integration.
However, despite studies showing the positive economic impact EU immigration has had on the UK, many in the Leave campaign continue to happily blame the ills of society on immigrants (EU or not), rather than on politicians.
Boris Johnson - the Leave campaigner accused of “dog-whistle racism” for criticising Obama based on his “part-Kenyan” ethnicity - said that the EU is a problem for the UK because “it has led to the absurd situation in which we stop highly qualified people coming from around the world who could contribute enormously to our society because we cannot stop millions of unskilled people coming here from the EU.”
This is a view shared by most of the other key Leave campaigners including Mr Farage who has repeatedly advocated an “Australian-style points-based immigration system.”
In doing so, they are sending out a message that so-called “unskilled” migrants offer nothing to our country, whereas in reality, the opposite is true.
Some of the best doctors, nurses, and teachers (amongst other valued public servants) are the children of so-called “unskilled” migrants. Arguing that we should leave the EU because there are “unskilled” migrants coming to this country serves only to divide and turn people against each other.
And I question the idea that our country is somehow turning away at the door “highly qualified” migrants from outside of the EU. The non-EU citizens who are actually locked out the most from our immigration system are those who are deemed to be “unskilled”.
In my mind, the issue around sovereignty is a red-herring and the arguments on the economy are settled.
As Hillary Benn nicely put it on Question Time, you have to be “pretty confident” that you are right, if you are disagreeing with the likes of the IFS, the OECD, the IMF, the Treasury, and the Bank of England on the economy.
Personally, I think the success of the single market economy is dependent on having a collaborative set of regulations which enables businesses to sell one version of goods and services across 28 countries rather than having to create 28 versions of those goods and services to meet individual rules.
However, while to some the campaign for Leave may simply be a vehicle to manoeuvre their way into Number 10 Downing Street, I worry that for others it is a vehicle to drive forward their agenda against “the other.”
This, in many respects, has been evidenced by the level of fear-mongering espoused by the Leave campaign which has included everything from “Paris and Orlando-style terrorists attacks” to “immigrant sex attacks on British women.”
The way I see it, this is more of a campaign for immigrants to leave the UK, than it is for the UK to leave the EU.
Today it’s those from Europe, but when people realise that housing shortages, unemployment, and pressures on the NHS still exist in a post-Brexit Britain, ask yourself - who will be the next “other” to blame?