DEMOCRACY: In this documentary, we meet both people who voted for the UK to leave and to remain in the EU, as well as experts like Noam Chomsky.
Published date: October 12, 2017


Timothy George Kelly


It has been said that the referendum on whether Britain should leave or remain in the EU became a vote that was not necessarily concerned with a continued EU membership but rather immigration.

When I was studying minority psychology at the university, I wrote a thesis about what is is that actually make people so afraid of immigration. Among the theories that could explain these feelings, I found Samuel Stouffer’s theory on relative deprivation – or, as coined by Gudmund Hernes and Knud Knudsen, relational lack – one of the most fascinating theories. This documentary certainly seems to support this theory. In practice, it means that one feels that other groups get what one really is entitled to get and that this poses a risk of losing even further rights as resources decrease. In Norway and the UK, we have social welfare that is available when needed and funded by the community. In Brexitannia, many express that immigrants help themselves to their resources so that less is left for them to have.

Are immigrant workers to blame? As a citizen in a country with social welfare, you also work to contribute to the community – so that social welfare is there in case you need it. Several of those being interviewed in the documentary show great concern about the loss of work and housing, and about b e c o m i n g e x t r e m e l y poor after refugees and immigrants have taken their social welfare so that there are not enough r e s o u r c e s left to take care of the country’s own citizens. A young man tells stories about his friends who lose their jobs to people from Eastern Europe. This is where the consequences of the EU membership play a role; in practice, immigrant workers coming from other EU countries often means that cheaper labor comes to the UK and takes the jobs from those who demand normal wages.

«In Brexitannia, many express that immigrants help themselves to their resources so that less is left for them to have.»

One of the guys in the documentary says that you are not British if you don’t have this skin color (“white”), pointing at his arm. By then, one has moved from fear to racism, and, in my opinion, this is actually an important distinction. Linking one’s rights to one’s skin color is extremely bad rhetoric in a very important discussion about the consequences of Brexit. If we were to follow this man’s reasoning, everyone who comes to the UK with a different skin color does not count as British, and thus they should not be entitled to social welfare. But what about those who arrive as economic refugees or immigrant workers, who are “white”? Is it okay for them to help themselves to state benefits?

When the sofa voters decide. I felt quite annoyed by some of those who expressed themselves in the documentary, and, at the same time, I am worried about the direction we are heading in here in Norway. Unfortunately, I think that we are heading towards a similar vote, precisely to prevent immigrant workers coming as a result of our EEA membership. Also in Norway, many are scared and unfortunately they tend to politically pull outwards the far right. Some push it to the extreme, becoming increasingly more loud, using a rhetoric that is directly harmful. Unfortunately, such rhetoric seems to mobilize like-minded people. In Britain, there were more people who mobilized to leave the EU than previously. Is this simply the result of the fact that the sofa voters actually went to vote, in fear of losing their gained social benefits? According to the documentary, there are many Britons who believe that. What will happen if we end up in a similar situation in Norway – that all the sofa voters who usually sit home, criticising the “Norwegian kindness” actually go to vote?

We are all people. The nice aspect of the documentary is that the names of the people we meet are not being used – neither the names of “the British” nor the experts in the second part of the documentary. This highlights an important point, that we are all people – regardless of our name, title, geographical-, political- or religious connection – with needs that have to be covered every single day, in one way or another. It’s scary to lose one’s life base, such as one’s job or housing, for then to experience difficulties in entering the job market again because many jobs have been “ t a k e n ” by work immigrants who accept lower wages.

«The EU membership has led to cheap labor coming to the UK from other EU countries, outperforming those who demand normal wages.»

It is scary to see that, on top of it, the country sends money to help refugees where they are. That makes it easy to say that it is the foreigners who take all the jobs and get all the money that the state and its’ citizens work for. It is easy to understand that one feels scared when one has limited resources and limited opportunity to gain knowledge about of the state of things. But fear and ignorance is never enough reason to become racist and choose a hatbased rhetoric.

Modern Times Review