by Eric Kaufmann
Monday, 30
May 2022
Analysis
14:19

Boris Johnson is opening the door to a populist insurgency

Brexit was meant to deliver lower immigration, but the reverse is happening
by Eric Kaufmann
Credit: Getty

The British government has launched a “high potential individual” route to attract the “brightest and best” graduates from around the world to Britain. Those with a degree will have a good chance at a 2-year work visa and can bring their families in, a bridge to a longer-term work visa. Boris Johnson and many elite Brexiteers believe that Brexit was about sovereignty and control, not immigration numbers. This narrative served to deflect the charge of racism during the Leave campaign, but also highlighted that Vote Leave elites really are motivated by a high-immigration, libertarian Singapore-on-Thames vision.

The problem for Johnson is that the dream of a free-trading global Britain is not why most people voted for Brexit. Instead, immigration was by far the most important motivation for Leave voters. The 2019 British Election Study shows that 8 in 10 people who voted Conservative or Brexit Party wanted less immigration, and on a scale from 0 (reduce a lot) to 5 (stay the same) to 10 (increase a lot), the average 2019 Tory voter scores little more than 2 out of 10.

As Clare Foges points out in an important piece in the Times today, 60% of those polled in 2016 thought Brexit would deliver lower levels of immigration and, at the time, Johnson argued that there was “no public consent for the scale of immigration we are seeing”. Yet, six years later, new Home Office figures show that nearly a million people were offered visas last year: work visas are up 50% from 2019-20, study visas up 58%, visas granted for family reasons up 63%.

In a set of survey experiments in 2018, I found that the balance of UK respondents preferred lower numbers even if this meant a less skilled immigration intake. This was especially true when immigration was tied to more rapid ethnic change in Britain (i.e. a drop to 58% White British by 2060 instead of 65% with lower immigration). When these ethnocultural effects were pointed out in each option, support for skilled immigration dropped 25 percentage points. This gets at the source of immigration anxiety, which is primarily cultural, not economic, and is concentrated among those with a psychological makeup which views difference as disorder and change as loss.

The Johnson government is pursuing an “Australia strategy” predicated on the idea that if you have control, numbers don’t matter. This has worked — temporarily — in Australia and Canada, but these societies are characterised by a weaker popular attachment to history and, certainly in Canada, growing polarisation on cultural lines. Populism around high levels of legal immigration has flared in New Zealand, focused on a narrative of high house prices and urban sprawl. Attempting such a strategy in Britain is a risky bet for a government which relies on culturally-conservative Red Wall voters for its survival.

It is true, as British Future and others point out, that immigration has fallen down voters’ priority list. But we have been living in highly unusual times. Managing a successful Brexit, followed by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, followed by the first interstate war in Europe since 1945. These events, and their economic knock-on effects, will not dominate the headlines forever. When the 2007-8 economic crisis subsided, the economy fell down EU citizens’ priority lists while immigration rose. This was the lay of the land prior to Brexit and the wider European populist moment, and when we return there, a government which has presided over high immigration levels may well be exposed, like David Cameron’s, to a populist insurgency.

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D Glover
D Glover
2 months ago

This was especially true when immigration was tied to more rapid ethnic change in Britain (i.e. a drop to 58% White British by 2060 instead of 65% with lower immigration).

I thought we were supposed to regard ‘replacement’ as a mad right-wing conspiracy theory that only incels and anti-semites believed in.

Runt's Meadow
Runt's Meadow
2 months ago
Reply to  D Glover

My reply seems to have been deleted. I said that it was only a mad right-wing conspiracy theory when mentioned by members of the north-west Indo-European group.

M. M.
M. M.
2 months ago

Eric Kaufmann wrote, “The British government has launched a ‘high potential individual’ route to attract the ‘brightest and best’ graduates from around the world to Britain.”

In the United States, politicians supported by the moneyed class in both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party define “brightest and best” to be anyone who excels at science or engineering. Using only this definition, these politicians have allowed Indians and, to a lesser extent, Chinese to flood into the United States. Some towns in California are now dominated by Indians.

These Indians outperform in science and engineering but underperform in political reasoning, compassion, honesty, etc. The areas of underperformance explain why India remains an impoverished, corrupt nation even though it has many citizens who excel at science or engineering. Furthermore, these areas of underperformance have negatively impacted California. The Indian electorate, together with the Hispanic electorate, have elected politicians whose policies have severely damaged Californian society.

The Indians reject Western culture and consider it to be inferior to Indian culture. Like the Hispanics, they refuse to assimilate into Western culture. Indians will ruin British society to the same degree to which they have ruined American society. After 2 more decades of massive immigration, the United States will cease to be a Western nation (and will become a Hispanic nation).

An example of assimilating into Western culture appears in the audio essay by Misa Sugiura. Contrast her family with the typical Hispanic or Indian family.

Get more info about this issue.

Last edited 2 months ago by Matthew M.
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  M. M.

Haven’t we been here before?
Hispanic culture is Western Culture, the clue is in the word Hispanic.
What you are really saying is that WASP culture is under threat from a cocktail of Mexican/South American cultures is it not?
As to Indians I suspect you are correct, although that hasn’t bern the case in the UK (so far.)
However you will have to be cautious as history tells us only too well what can happen when a people :-“outperform in science and engineering but underperform in political reasoning, compassion, honesty”, if you get my drift?

M. M.
M. M.
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Hispanic culture is quite different from Western culture.

For example, Hispanics expect, demand, and receive preferential treatment. Get more info about this issue.

Hispanics commit murder at 3 times and 6 times the rate at which Americans of European ancestry or Asian ancestry, respectively, commit murder. Get more info about this issue.

Last edited 2 months ago by Matthew M.
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  M. M.

That sounds rather like the Scotch and Irish over here, but they remain a part of Western Culture do they not?
You obviously have little idea of what Western Culture is, perhaps you are not one of us?
Which Europeans for example first set foot on the benighted continent of America. Who built the first global empire on which “the sun never set”? Who were the Conquistadors? Were did the military terms Colonel and Infantry come from?
You need to grab a copy of Hemingway and pop over to Madrid for an afternoon of bull fighting. Then you may understand why they say:- “Me gustan los toros porque est la connexion ultima con la traditione gladiatore di Roma antigua”.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

What’s so good about gladitorial combat that we want to preserve something cruel just because it’s the ‘last connection’ to it?

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Who said it was ‘good’? But it is very Spanish is it not?

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Bull fighting is no longer allowed in Spain.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Nonsense! Who told you that? Some Catalan cretin no doubt.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Only in some regions:
This is from the ‘don Quijote‘ website:
“Bullfights are forbidden by law in the Canary Islands and Catalonia. However, the last one keeps on celebrating other festivities with bulls. In Galicia and most of the Balearic Islands, bullfights are legal, but the practice is banned in some places.
In the rest of Spain, bullfights are completely legal. Yet, they do not have the same consideration everywhere. Generally speaking, the northern regions do not have such a rooted bullfighting tradition as the ones in the center or the south of the country. In Madrid, both CastillasMurcia and Navarra, bullfighting is contemplated as a Celebration of Cultural Interest and Intangible Cultural Heritage

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  M. M.

Asians, as far as I am aware, as well as being an enormously diverse group (and include Indians of course), are not ‘western’. Get a bit more precise in your comments.

Last edited 2 months ago by Andrew Fisher
R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Hispanics are not considered to be white. They are mostly descended from ‘natives’ pre-Columbian exchange.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Precisely. The
word Hispanic is incorrect and only relates to language.
Do we call a Scotchman English, just because he has the good sense to speak English?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

I was under the impression that scotch is whiskey and the people north of the wall (Hadrian’s) are Scots. Or wildlings, both work i guess.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

This is getting nerdy and off the point, but Hadrian’s Wall was constructed when ‘England’ and ‘Scotland’ did not exist, has never formed the Anglo-Scottish border, and lies entirely in now what is England.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I was trying to make a GoT joke, north of the border – wildlings , not quite as effective as north of the wall. Obviously it was a rubbish joke, easily ruined by semantics! Ah well.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

We don’t call them ‘Spanish’, we use the shorthand term ‘Hispanics’. (And similarly, the term ‘Anglo’ rather than ‘English’ is used for the British-derived US population, with a slight connotation of being the elite group). The Mexicans for example, have Catholicism, baroque cathedrals, colonial towns and bullfights, and owe more than a little to (peninsular) Spanish culture. The term ‘Hispanics’ therefore seems a pretty good shorthand term one to me. (Latin Americans would include Brazil).
Culture matters most, whatever the particular admixture of genes in the modern Mexican population, the obsession with the significance of racial makeup does sound like as pure a definition of ‘racism’ as could be found.

Last edited 2 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I’m not sure that is true, as the pre-Columbian native population was decimated, principally by introduced disease. But – as if that matters – the obsession with the significance of racial makeup does sound like as pure a definition of ‘racism’ as could be found. All modern humans are extremely closely related, biologically speaking, compared I have heard, to earthworms in lawns a few miles away. Culture does matter much more of course.

Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago
Reply to  M. M.

Too many crass generalisations there.
A lot of Silicon Valley companies are now led by Indian and ethnic Chinese people born outside the US. They are extermely successful and got where they did on merit. I know – I’ve worked with them.
It is ridiculous to say that all Indians are the same.
Or indeed to blame the state of politics in California on the Chinese. Or Hispanics.
Have you actually lived and worked in California ?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

and also Jewish.. who excel, and outperform in every single field that they turn their gifted minds to

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I totally agree. Some people seem to want to make enemies of absolutely everyone! ‘Hispanics’ as well, in his view!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  M. M.

The United States has long been a society of immigration and this has never been a painless process, with regular hostility to a whole variety of incoming groups, including Catholics as a whole for many decades. Now of course for some right-wingers this recedes into a rose-tinted past of seamless integration (especially if they want, say, the Irish, Jewish or Italian-American vote!)
Whatever the merits or not of immigration – and I do believe social coherence is an important issue that is not given anywhere near enough attention – you make a huge sweeping generalisation about Indians – and indeed India. India is a rapidly growing economy that is beset with a host of problems, not least its huge diversity, that is true, although it rather remarkably in my opinion remains a democracy. Indians don’t simplistically ‘reject’ western culture, which is why they have a democracy and a legal system largely based on the one introduced by the British. (Some people on the Right of Indian politics, including Modi, do go further, it is true in their pursuance of ‘Hindutva’ etc, but many Indians don’t like this direction of travel).
Most of all however, your comment, quite extraordinarily in this day and age, completely ignores the entirely home-grown ills of the United States and California in particular, which have very often been promoted vigorously (and to an extreme) by those elites that would have once be called WASPS! French post-modern theory, sub-marxist academia, the promotion of divisive and self-destructive identity and extreme environmental policies and egalitarian educational nostrums provide the real cause of the problems in California, not its Indian population. An understanding of society based predominantly on some supposed immutable racial characteristics is as wrong as it as ever been
And I don’t know what your politics are, but adding to your condemnation the entire ‘Hispanic’ population, however long established, would seem to be an absolutely moronic thing for those people who want to bring the US to its senses, and in particular the Republican Party. The US population IS less purely ‘Anglo’ (which appears to be your real beef) and is inevitably becoming ever more so, with or without further immigration. Were you their advisor the Republicans would never get in power again!

Last edited 2 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago

As usual it doesn’t matter what most of the native inhabitants think. The conservative government seems to want more immigrants that are bright to boost industry while Labour want more immigrants that are likely to vote Labour. A lot of businesses want more cheap hardworking immigrants not necessarily the brightest and best and the general population just want fewer immigrants who will be competing for their jobs and driving down wages and putting additional pressure on services.
In prewar Germany there was a long term immigrant population that contained the brightest and the best who proved successful in many fields in Germany. It didn’t end well for the immigrants when their success came to be resented by a significant section of the population who were attracted to the policies of a politician who promised to make Germany great again and reduce the cosmopolitan element of the country. History doesn’t repeat but it tends to rhyme.

D Glover
D Glover
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

That won’t happen. This article tries to invoke a ‘populist insurgency’ but I really don’t see it. A third of school-age children have a foreign-born mother. They are the next generation of youths.
The white majority includes a very long tail of old people who are past breeding, marching, or fighting. There is no-one to organise this ‘insurgency’ either.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago
Reply to  D Glover

You are hopefully right about the prospects of a similar insurgency but it is not something that is likely to contribute to social cohesion.

Runt's Meadow
Runt's Meadow
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Social

Last edited 2 months ago by Runt's Meadow
Kevin Jones
Kevin Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The Jewish population of Germany in 1933 was a mere 0.7% .

Last edited 2 months ago by Kevin Jones
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Jones

Most of whom were the offspring of descendants who had been there for centuries.

Giles Toman
Giles Toman
2 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Jones

And less than this by 1945.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

“the general population just want fewer immigrants who will be competing for their jobs and driving down wages and putting additional pressure on services”
… and driving up the cost of housing.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 months ago

“The Johnson government is pursuing an “Australia strategy” predicated on the idea that if you have control, numbers don’t matter. This has worked — temporarily — in Australia and Canada”

When the Howard conservative government in Australia doubled immigration numbers the strategy was to reduce union power by providing lots of cheap, non-union labour. It worked. It also resulted in a lot of ‘wage-theft’ (underpayment) in those industries like hospitality, I.T. and horticulture, where the migrants worked.

Although we have that immigration scheme based on taking ‘qualified’ people, in fact, most of them don’t work in the occupations they are qualified in – or not at a professional level. You can see that by how much they earn. It would be interesting to see how many of these migrants would be let in if their employer had to pay them the going professional salary rate for the occupation that qualified them for a working visa.

Last edited 2 months ago by Russell Hamilton
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 months ago

Such immigration schemes should be audited promptly by automated confirmation of income, employer and ‘profession’ through the PAYE system. My feeling is that civil servants and politicians may not be cynical enough when dealing with clever and unscrupulous people from other countries, who may get to know one’s own systems better than those who devised them.

Last edited 2 months ago by Colin Elliott
R S Foster
R S Foster
2 months ago

…I’m not sure the average “Red Wall” Brexiteer was much concerned about highly-qualified people from anywhere coming here to make money and create jobs, because actually they are neither “stupid” nor “racist”…
…but they were rightly worried about being displaced at the bottom end of the job market by unskilled Eastern Europeans willing to work “six-twelves” on minimum wage, because they were happy to live eight to a four bedroom terrace in order to remit the maximum amount of money home…or about the building sites where the labourers were Rumanian and the craftsmen Polish, and the Contractor hadn’t taken on an apprentice for at least fifteen years…
…just as well, because the local college no longer offered much by way of craft-skills training in any event. I live in a City of over 500,000…there was a time where the nearest plastering course was twenty miles away..!
And if you look hard, you will see that many of the painful adjustments in our economy are about exactly these issues…industries who had built themselves around an endless renewable supply of cheap unskilled labour on contract with no security, no training and no investment…having to find ways to keep on running when they need to pay enough for a family to live on, train enough to get people who can do the work, and invest enough to do things efficently…
…not just double up on the numbers of newly-arrived and undiscriminating migrants you can exploit for a few months before they work out what’s going on, and move on or go home.
If you want proof, look at what happens to travel when luggage-handlers, cleaners and so on want decent money and fair conditions…you’ll see it at Manchester Airport…

Last edited 2 months ago by R S Foster
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 months ago

The elites that rule the West choose to ignore the high premium ordinary people place on reducing immigration in all its forms. The doors are open, boys, c’mon in! Sweden is the latest country to learn the downsides of this policy. No one benefits except the uneducated young Muslim men living on state welfare who feel free to ogle the women and often don’t leave it at that.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jerry Carroll
R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

I thought the idea of demographic replacement was supposed to be some sort of anti semitic canard or white dupremacist dog whistle.

Kat L
Kat L
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Like most conspiracy theories these days, it turns into fact about 5 years later…

Last edited 2 months ago by Kat L
Kevin Jones
Kevin Jones
2 months ago

The 2021 Census results will be revealing without giving a full picture.

Last edited 2 months ago by Kevin Jones
Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 months ago

Europeans didn’t need visas. The fraction of immigration that needed visas was less than they 20%. Now everyone needs a visa, therefore it is both possible to increase the number of visas and reduce the total immigration. If the number of visas went up by 50%, and the visa-holders represented 20% of the total, that means visa holders represent now 30% of the old-total. However, there are no non-visa holders now. Hence, there are 70% less immigrants than before.

Also, the new visa is only for graduates of the top 50 universities worldwide. Not any graduate as the author implies.

Regardless of whether I agree or not with the author’s main points, it really discredits him when he hides this simply facts.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 months ago

Ummm, I’ve always found Indians very civil, humorous and hard working.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

You obviously don’t receive two or three ‘phone calls from Amazon, Microsoft, BT, or Visa everyday.

Last edited 2 months ago by Colin Elliott
Jeanie K
Jeanie K
2 months ago

“Populist”
Isn’t that the word used by people who don’t want to use the word “Popular” because it doesn’t fit their narrative?

John Broomfield
John Broomfield
2 months ago

Replace “meant to lower immigration” with “meant to admit only well qualified immigrants” to be closer to the truth. That mistake stopped me from taking this article seriously.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 months ago

Brexit has reduced net immigration, from about 450,000 annually to about 250,000 annually.

George Stone
George Stone
2 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

The highest net migration figure is 331,000 in 2015. Net immigration from the EU was still positive until at least 2020.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 months ago

Britains real future relies exactly in a tax haven low taxation, banking secrecy capital and investment attracting status… so easily achieved, but no politician has the guts and backbone to implement it

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago

Plus a giant kitsch historical wonderland based around the Brigade of Female Guards, The Queen’s Own Nubile Highlanders and the like.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 months ago

Replacement is not a conspiracy, it’s a necessity. Our schools are hopeless and becoming more so by the day. The same is true throughout the ‘western’ world. How long will it be before the majority leave still functionally illiterate and innumerate, content to spend time in a lascivious blue funk deciding which items on the ever-expanding menu of gender and sexual preference are preferred today? That’s why we need Asians and Africans, they will have nothing to do with this utter nonsense. Our culture has become so perverse that it is almost dead, and in the interest of humanity, it deserves to die.

Last edited 2 months ago by Martin Smith
Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
2 months ago

I suspect anyone running a bar, restaurant or similar establishment would think Brexit has very effectively stopped foreign workers from coming to this country – there’s a massive labour shortage. Also in other industries dependent on cheap labour.
You can’t have it both ways

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

There’s only a labour shortage in industries that relied on cheap foreign labour, such as hospitality. If these businesses paid their staff a wage they could live on they’d have no problem attracting the employees they need. It’s supply and demand after all

Last edited 2 months ago by Billy Bob
Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

We don’t want it both ways.
As Billy Bob says, the labour shortages are due to suppressed wages in these sectors which are a result of excessive unskilled immigration. A lot of us would support people in these sectors being paid better and British born workers taking on more of those jobs. A rise in wages for low paid jobs has been one of the welcome (and unforeseen) benefits of Brexit.
There is no absolute labour shortage in this country. There are millions of economically inactive people in this country. Both skilled and unskilled. Millions of trained teachers and nurses who no longer nurse or teach. There is a disastrous misallocation of resources. And an excess of “graduates”. That’s all.
It’s all solvable. Without excessive immigration.
I have said this before – a lot of the economic “growth” under new Labour was a direct result of the one-off gain from the sudden new pool of cheap EU labour – which also had the side effect of reducing consumer price inflation (while disastrously increasing house price inflation).
We are finally correcting some of the fundamental errors of Blair and Brown. Good.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Capitalists are all for free markets – except with wages. When they can’t fill jobs cheaply they petition the government to create foreign workers programs.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

“A rise in wages for low paid jobs has been one of the welcome (and unforeseen) benefits of Brexit.”
I foresaw this. It’s exactly why I voted for Brexit.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

One off gain is about right. The so admired work ethic will not be present in their off-spring and they too will become pensioners one day…