Filoxenia as public policy

europeanunionnationalsintheuk

The time has come to confront the majority opinion that there are ‘too many’ European Union migrants in the United Kingdom. The Office of National Statistics estimates European Union migrants as 5% of the population. Is 5% too many? No it is not! There may well be many who have opinions about how many is too many, but surely no one can say that 5% is too many? If 5% is too many, then what is not too many? Surely anyone can see that this is nonsense? Surely it is apparent that people have believed a lie that they have been willing to believe. That lie is that if you have something to complain about, then blame the European Union, and particularly blame the European Union citizens who have come to work in your country. This blame game may be convenient, but it is not based on truth. Convictions based on lies will not help solve the problems that you genuinely feel. Stand up for yourself, and don’t let yourself be manipulated by others!

Xenophobia is causing real damage to the citizens of the United Kingdom. Until now public policy strategy has been to ignore the issue, and wait for it to go away. I feel that the time has come for a new policy. In addition to contesting the lies about migration, there is a need for a positive policy on filoxenia. If xenophobia is the fear of the foreigner, then filoxenia is the welcoming of the foreigner. Xenophobia thrives on ignorance – for example, many areas that worry about immigration actually have the lowest numbers of foreigners. In order to combat ignorance, can we arrange exchanges for young people, where they experience what it is like to actually live and work or study in a foreign country. I’m not suggesting school trips to the Eiffel Tower, but rather to actually share a foreigner’s daily routine for a longer period – maybe a month, or three, or more. Today’s Erasmus exchange enables students to spend time studying abroad. What we need is to extend that experience to teenage school children and to young workers – apprentices, trainees, unemployed, conscripts, offenders, the lot.

The urgent introduction of a policy of filoxenia is in the country’s best interests, whatever happens with leaving or remaining. The referendum has provided the space for some to stoke the fear of foreigners. The time to confront that fear is now. The future of the country depends on working against the poison of xenophobia, and reality is the best antidote.

 

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One Response to “Filoxenia as public policy”

  1. Martin Flower Says:

    I quote at length from Andrew Cooper’s post-referendum analysis (theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/04/post-referendum-politics-eu-vote)

    … Positive facts and arguments in favour of EU membership were mostly disbelieved and rejected out of hand; and most voters believed that the costs of being in the EU were far greater than the benefits, and that other EU countries got much more out of membership than we did. Beyond that, there was a widely held feeling that the only way to cope with the pressures on jobs, public services and the economy may be to put up barriers to the world – and therefore to the EU – which we alone controlled; a craving for unilateral control in a multilateral world.

    .. ..

    The foundational research showed Britain divided into three almost equal chunks. The first chunk – 34% of the population – was internationalist in outlook; socially liberal; positive about globalisation, immigration and multiculturalism; and optimistic about the future.

    .. ..

    The second chunk – at that stage, 32% of the population – was diametrically opposed: nationalist in outlook; socially conservative; fearful of globalisation; opposed to multiculturalism; preoccupied by immigration; pessimistic about the future; and very hostile to the EU. For these voters, immigration was far and away the most important issue in the referendum; most of them favoured ending free movement, even if this made Britain worse off. The attitude that most characterised them was “I hardly recognise the country I live in any more”. More than half of them agreed with the statement “If I could wave a magic wand and take the UK back to the 1950s, I would”. Their imperative was to shut out the consequences of globalisation and open markets.

    .. ..

    The third chunk – 34% of the population – was conflicted. These people were the in-play voters: the primary target for both campaigns in the EU referendum. They were very clear that they didn’t like the EU, and why: uncontrolled immigration, the huge direct cost of membership, too much meddling in our laws and lives. They were torn between the appealing idea of insulating the UK from the pressures of an open world, and fear of the idea of a Britain outside the EU, isolated and alone. They were defined by the attitude that “my heart wants to leave the EU, but my head says it may be too risky”.

    There was no emotional argument for the EU that had any resonance with these voters. For committed remain and leave voters, the decision was often passionately held and part of a wider worldview. For the “hearts v heads” voters it was a pragmatic, often transactional, decision. Like almost everyone else, they were worried about immigration – but the economic implications of Brexit mattered even more. Our challenge was to cut through with hard economic arguments – so that head would trump heart. This is where the campaign failed and the referendum was lost.

    .. ..

    On immigration we had no satisfactory answer. For voters who felt this was the most important issue, nothing came close to the simple appeal of ending free movement from the EU, and that was plainly irreconcilable with remaining a member. The Stronger in Europe campaign tested dozens of arguments, but none had any traction with the key in-play voters. Because of the hearts v heads dynamic, many wanted to believe the leave arguments, and disbelieve those forwarded by remain.

    .. ..

    Research established that “independent experts” were top of the list of people whose opinions the swing voters wanted to hear. It turned out that what they really meant was “independent experts who agree with me”. A poll during the campaign found that while remain voters trusted a wide range of experts and professionals, leave voters didn’t trust anyone.

    .. ..

    left v right is being supplanted as the driver of political alignment by open v closed – and Britain is split on those lines more or less 50/50.
    .. ..

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