Britain's decision to leave the European Union came as a shock to global markets, and many are focusing on Brexit's economic impact above all else. And while it's true that the pound has lost a great deal of value and that stock prices plummeted in the wake of the Brexit vote, it's also true that these are likely to be merely short-term consequences. Currencies and stocks fall and rise, and there is every reason to believe that they will eventually recover. More troubling are the long-term implications of the anti-immigration motivations behind the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU.
According to USA Today, a "third of those who voted in favor of Britain leaving the EU said immigration concerns were the reason." Patricia Kawaja, a U.K. native, complained that her country was collapsing under the strain. "We're such a small land mass," she said. "We can't assimilate people just pouring in with no limitation."
The problem with that way of thinking is that it's not based on solid information. While it's true that the U.K. has had record influx of immigrants in recent years, it is not accurate to say they have been accepting any and all comers with "no limitation." It's also shortsighted to suppose that immigrants are a financial burden, as studies demonstrate that immigration is a net positive for the British economy
Yet much of the debate on this subject is being driven by emotion, not reason. As Alexandra Cirone, a fellow at the London School of Economics, rightly noted to the New York Times, there is a tendency "to see anti-immigrant sentiment in areas hit by changing economic circumstances or global crises," and that "[f]raming this globalization problem as immigration can also tug on the heartstrings of potential voters, regardless of the actual facts."
Too many, both at home and abroad, are looking for someone to blame for their county's problems. Immigrants, sadly, make for easy scapegoats.
It also needs to be noted that immigration levels are unusually high partly because of the large number of international refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. Refugees need our aid. Brexit, at least to some degree, is a codified rejection of the global responsibility to help those in need. Unfortunately, that sentiment isn't confined to the United Kingdom. To date, America's response to the refugee crisis has been woefully inadequate. It's essential to remember that these are individuals who have lost everything, and their plight calls out for a compassionate response on both sides of the Atlantic.