Brexit! If You’re An Immigrant From Beyond The EU, What’s Not To Love?

6 months ago Ricardo Hylton 1

The Invisible Aliens were watching The Daily Politics from a few days ago, and was taken aback when a lady with a distinctly Jamaican accent bemoaned the UK’s exit from the European Union. We were flabbergasted. Whilst the native white British moaned and wringed their hands over the supposedly impending financial apocalypse caused by Brexit and the loss of their sun bathing entrée to the South of France, why were immigrants in Britain from outside the EU grousing about it? Why were they acting against their self-interest, or rather the interest of the nations of their origin?

Can We Trade?

After enslaving much of the world and building their cities off the back of African slaves and Asian servitude, Britain felt a pang of guilt. A small pang, admittedly but a pang nonetheless. They negotiated a few trade deals with the likes of Ghana, Jamaica and India, countries they had pilfered. These trade deals tended to give preferential tariff free access to our cocoa, sugar cane and bananas. But over time, being a member of the EU meant that the UK often gave preferential treatment to the other members of the Union, often to the detriment of Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean.

Throughout the 1990s EU exports to Latin America grew considerably. At the same time, however, EU imports have increasingly favored Eastern Europe and in some cases Asia. In the world of realpolitik, small and relatively poor nations like Jamaica had neither the gravitas nor power to negotiate with a regional bloc like the EU and get anything like a fair deal because contrary to what the WTO and the United States and the European Union preaches in diktats, pamphlets and western-tinged economic courses, they are protectionist to the core (see the UK’s current reluctance to trade by WTO rules).


The European Union is a posh private school

David Ricardo’s principle of comparative advantage is one of the key pillars of economics. The idea is that countries will produce what is most efficient and trade with others that can produce other goods more cost-effectively. Yet in an attempt to butter up inefficient European farmers, the EU has adopted dumping as an economic policy, the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and a fisheries policy that discriminates against outsiders.

Many developing countries are highly dependent on agriculture. The FAO found that agriculture provides for the livelihood of about 70% of the world’s poorest people. As such, the subsidies in the CAP are charged with preventing developing countries from exporting agricultural produce to the EU on a level playing field. The WTO Doha Development Round, which intended to increase global development, stalled due to the developed countries refusal to remove agricultural subsidies. For the developing world the European Union should be seen as a posh private school or golf club that admits a few outsiders to keep up appearances of openness and parsimoniously dispenses its charity, whilst keeping the rest of us locked out.


Till Subsidies Do Us Part

To perpetuate the viability of European agriculture, the CAP mandated production by farmers set at a level much higher that the actual demand in the free market. This leads to the European Union purchasing millions of tons of surplus output every year at the stated guaranteed market price, and storing this produce in large quantities (leading to what critics have called ‘butter mountains’ and ‘milk lakes’), before selling the produce wholesale to developing nations. In 2007 the EU Public Stock had amassed ‘13,476,812 tons of cereal, rice, sugar and milk products and 3,529,002 hectoliters of alcohol/wine.’ Much of that excess stock is exported with the use of export subsidies. It is clear that Caribbean, African and Asian sugar, tomato and poultry farmers cannot keep up with cheap competition from Europe, thus their incomes can no longer provide for their families.

In 2003, according to the Human Development Report the average dairy cow in the year 2000 under the European Union received $913 in subsidies annually, while an average of $8 per human being was sent in aid to Sub-Saharan Africa. Little has changed since then. In addition, the EU turned insular. Most of the trade was completed internally. With Britain out of the EU, developing nations should celebrate. Freed from EU regulations and protectionism, maybe that ancient guilt will reassert itself and Jamaican and Zimbabwean farmers will get a better deal.


Mama Africa

There may be reason to believe that the Brexit could be beneficial for many African nations. Indeed, ahead of the referendum result, the UK’s minister for Africa, James Duddridge, commented that Brexit would only serve to strengthen relations between the UK and Africa. Although we will need to wait and see whether this expectation is fully realised, the view is not entirely misguided. The UK defended African interests in trade, amongst other policy areas, during its membership of the EU. In particular, it adopted an antiprotectionist position in respect of EU agricultural policy and James Cleverley, the UK conservative MP who was also a fervent supporter of the “Leave” campaign in the lead up to the referendum, indicated that such a policy favours European farmers to the detriment of those in developing nations.

The existing tariffs imposed on goods such as processed coffee and cocoa are high, which commentators, especially those in favour of reform, have argued prevents African farmers from competing on a level playing field with their European counterparts. Brexit could mean that the UK becomes free to negotiate better trade deals with African nations, without the obligation to consider the interests of other EU member states. This could have the consequential effect of boosting investment in and opportunities for those working in the agriculture sector in Africa.


Oh Ye Immigrant

On immigration, the EU declares that it is liberal, enlightened and freethinking. Everyone can travel and move across borders as they please. How wonderful. Unless you’re from a majority black and brown nation that is. Are you African? Go get a visa. And good luck with that. You’re an Asian, Latin American and Caribbean citizen. What’s that you say? You don’t make a huge salary? You’re not welcome. You’re a Namibian doctor, more qualified that an Estonian? Sorry, you’re not welcome. So with Britain out the EU, it will at least carve its own immigration policy and perhaps other poor immigrants such as myself will have more of an opportunity, no matter how infinitesimal this may be, to travel and make a better life for themselves and their families.

This is something that people in Europe will find very hard to fully appreciate. The inability of fulfill your potential because the legacy of slavery, a fatally skewed, palpably unjust global economic order concomitant with the rule of crackpot democratic despots means that millions of children will never glimpse their potential. And of course, I’m not so naïve as to think goodwill will rule British hearts here at all. Not in the slightest. But there’s much more of a chance that Brexit and an independent immigration policy will tilt away from Europe and seek talent in other places. That’s likely to shine a torch in the darker corners of the world. So shout hurrah to Brexit, all you working people of the world.