Throughout the developed world, populist demagogues are claiming that migration is draining national resources and eroding national sovereignty. Their lies have already pushed voters in the UK to reject the EU, and must be corrected before they cause even more damage.
LONDON – Voters in the United Kingdom have done the unthinkable, choosing to leave the European Union – a truly noble project that, whatever its shortcomings, has promoted peace and stability across the continent for more than a half-century. Markets have tumbled, Britain’s prime minister has announced that he will resign, and the UK is more divided than ever. And the consequences – for the UK, the EU, and the world – may be just beginning.
The “Brexit” vote represents a triumph of fear over reason. “Leave” campaigners mendaciously and recklessly capitalized on popular distrust of the ruling elites and discontent about growing inequality and rapid social change to advance their own interests. In a relentless anti-immigration campaign, the Brexiteers, together with tabloid media, peddled distorted facts and outright lies about the impact of migration, thereby convincing fearful and frustrated voters that immigration and the EU, which requires freedom of movement among member states, are responsible for virtually all of Britain’s social woes. Many of the Leave campaign’s leading actors have been antagonistic toward the EU for decades.
It is a trend that can be seen in much of the developed world. Populist demagogues are arguing that migration is draining national resources and eroding national sovereignty. The only way to regain control, they claim, is to batten down the hatches and retreat from international alliances, behind national borders.