home Commentary, Culture, Europe, Politics Brightest and best, it’s time to pack up and offer your talents elsewhere

Brightest and best, it’s time to pack up and offer your talents elsewhere

 

Brightest and best, it is time to cut your losses.

The UK does not value your presence. No matter how much you contribute with your entrepreneurship, your skills, your artistic creativity, your unfailing efforts for the NHS, schools, and higher education, not to mention your net tax contributions, it will never be enough.

Whatever you contribute won’t suffice because you are a burden on the NHS, your children fill up the schools, and your cars damage the roads. Do you know why houses are so expensive here? You’d think it is because people here treat houses as an investment rather than as a home, or because not enough houses are being built so as to keep an imbalance between supply and demand. You’re wrong: it is because of your presence here. You did that. You broke the UK.

So it is time pack up and offer your talents elsewhere. The UK government say they still want the brightest and best, but they don’t believe it, not really.

A group of Indian students talking to each other.
Indian students at Oxford University. Credit: Oxford University

Take their approach to foreign students. Foreign students are among those alleged brightest and best. They add to the UK economy with their steep student fees. They are not entitled to benefits or loans. They add an estimated £14 billion to the UK economy, propping up its seriously underfunded higher education. If they stay on after studying they contribute their skills, net tax contributions, and global network. The UK’s visa restrictions have made this more difficult, leading Indian students, for example, to go to Australia, Canada, and the US instead.

If you do decide to come, they need assurances you are a “genuine student”. Your lecturers are required to regularly report on your presence during lectures to the home office (trust me, your lecturers don’t regale in playing immigration office). And even if you are a genuine student, you can still be wrongfully deported — as May did as home secretary to a stunning 48,000 students. Whoops!

A smiling white family wearing tartans.
The Zielsdorf family

How about other people? Say, entrepreneurs? Take this Canadian family, the Zielsdorfs, who invested over £200,000 in their Scottish shop/Bed and Breakfast, renovating a dilapidated building with their own money, contributing to the community. Deported. They did not comply with immigration rules, as they did not employ two workers full-time. Of course, the home office “carefully considered the case on its individual merits.”

It’s a good thing your spouse makes over £ 18,600 per year, or you make over £35,000, or your can have the unique parenting experience of seeing your British child grow up on Skype. “Don’t worry, sweetie, daddy is doing his best to find a job that pays more, so I can come home”.

A young child staring into a computer screen.
Hi mum! I hope you come home soon — courtesy of the UK home office (source: Flickr)

I could go on. As you know, dear brightest and best, the Tories have called a general election (after repeatedly saying they would not), while the clock for EU exit negotiations is ticking. You cannot vote in it, of course, but the election is very much about you. They intend to:

  • starve the NHS of funds (funding the NHS is after all “throwing good money after bad”, as our
  • esteemed prime minister says)
  • severely cut the school budgets
  • abandon the triple lock on pensions
  • increase taxes (they’ll need to)
  • cut your rights to life, freedom of expression, and religion, your protection from being tortured or enslaved
  • rather crash out of the EU than take a “bad deal” (by the way, if you’re an economist, could you please explain to me what kind of bad Brexit deal would be worse than no deal? I’d love to know).

If the opposition wasn’t non-existent, who would win an election with a programme like this? But they did announce they will keep one part of their programme: reducing immigration to the 10,000s.

You read that right. With all the problems that beset this country, social care tearing at the seams, people dying on hospital corridors, and children going hungry during school holidays, you are the government’s top priority! Oh, that, and reinstating fox hunting.

Now you may ask, how is the UK going to find workers and fund pensions and the NHS without the present level of net migration? Even if they end migration from the EU (that was the whole point of Brexit, wasn’t it?), they will still have to deal with the over 100,000 non-EU migrants that come in each year.
“Oh dear. How much more horribly do we have to treat these people before they finally get the message. We don’t want them here”, I hear Amber Rudd thinking. But she’s creative. She can come up with more horrible policies.

Theresa May speaking at an event.
A country that works for everyone. In case you didn’t know: “everyone” does not include you

Here’s my thought on why this is the case. The government say they care about migration, that the Brexit vote was a clear vote on migration. Unless you’re someone from the Commonwealth, you never saw the ballot paper, but trust me, it was on there “Do you want more bloody EU foreigners to come in?”, oddly, the options were “Leave”, “Remain”. But if you look at this graph, you can see that UK citizens aren’t more worried about foreigners than citizens in comparable EU countries.

Data showing that citizens are not very worried about migrants.
UK citizens are not more worried than other EU citizens about migration (source: Migration Observatory, data: 2014)

I think that the UK government is acting this way not purely to win voters, although it is working beautifully for them at the moment, but because it is populated by genuine xenophobes. You see, UK society is very stratified. Only the elites fill positions that they now see us marching in here in our embarrassingly large numbers. We populate their higher education sector, their banking sector, their artistic scene. Heck, a Canadian is governor of the Bank of England. So we threaten that sense that they’re so superior to everyone else. That’s why they want us out.

Have you heard Leavers say “I love Europe, but I hate the EU”? Those sophisticated ones; they drink prosecco and eat tomme de brebis and Belgian chocolates, and they love to visit those charming European little towns. What they mean is they think you’re charming, but they don’t want you on an equal footing, waltzing in and taking those jobs as they see fit. Maybe they’re not so special after all, if a Belgian or Spanish person can take the jobs they’ve been carefully reserving for themselves.

On 9 June, you will wake up to a Tory landslide victory. At least it won’t be a shock as on 24 June. You can then wait to see whether it’s true that this will give them a better negotiation hand, what policies they have in store to make life more miserable for you, or whether they’ll just kick you out anyway.

We cannot vote, brightest and best, but we can vote with our feet. As an American brightest and best told me (a University of Oxford lecturer), “I’m going back to the States. Trump is just for four years, maybe eight, but Brexit is forever”. The UK is having an existential crisis. While it’s figuring out what it wants to do, do you want to end up as collateral damage?

I end with this testimonial by Professor Bruno Pollet, a French citizen and environmental researcher.

I came to this country in good faith. I studied, worked, lived and integrated among other Europeans. I positively contributed to the British society through my hard work, experience and passion for Science & Technology. The UK was my home. Then I was labelled a foreigner and a scrounger among British people and my home was taken away. It was time to leave, time to seek a better life. Would I ever return to the UK? Maybe…Who knows! But needless to say that I will never forget nor forgive those who betrayed me, dehumanised me and tried to use me as ‘bargaining chip’!

This originally appeared on Medium, and has been reprinted with permission.

Photo credit: Duncan Hull/Creative Commons


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Helen De Cruz

Helen De Cruz is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Oxford Brookes University. She works on the philosophy of religion, philosophy of cognitive science, and recently has an interest in what philosophy can do outside of the academy.