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Standard: Brexit campaign ‘hindered integration because debate on immigration was so toxic’

Date: 25 08 2017

Brexit campaign ‘hindered integration because debate on immigration was so toxic’

The Brexit referendum campaign harmed integration because of the toxic rhetoric surrounding immigration, an influential report has found.

A group of MPs, led by Labour’s pro-EU Chuka Umunna, demanded “urgent action” to be undertaken to help build a more cohesive society.

They said the immigration system must be “comprehensively” reformed in order to better support migrants in the aftermath of the vote to quit the EU in June last year.

And their report also opened the door for regions such as London to be given greater autonomy over immigration to meet the needs of their communities and economies.

The group’s other findings included:

 – Immigrants are increasingly living “parallel lives” to other communities;

 – Integration of immigrants in Britain is hindered by xenophobia and toxic rhetoric;

 – Six in 10 second generation immigrants think Britain has become less tolerant since the vote for Brexit.

Mr Umunna, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, said: “The demonisation of immigrants, exacerbated by the poisonous tone of the debate during the EU referendum campaign and after, shames us all and is a huge obstacle to creating a socially integrated nation.”

The group said the positive impact of immigration in communities needs to be more widely acknowledged and celebrated.

“We must start by valuing the contribution of all ethnic and minority communities to the UK,” Mr Umunna added.

“Rather than being seen as security risks, immigrants should be viewed as Britons-in-waiting, keen to participate in their community. The best way to do this isn’t to leave newcomers and their communities to sink or swim, but to offer migrants more support to integrate into our society.”

The group said local authorities should be given a legal duty to help newly-arrived immigrants integrate within their communities, immediately helping them towards a goal of gaining British citizenship.

But critics claimed the group’s findings were a way of trying to preserve the free movement of people after Britain leaves the EU.

Richard Tice, who is co-chairman of pro-Brexit campaign group Leave Means Leave, told the BBC: “There is nothing ‘poisonous’ about wanting to take back control over Britain’s borders, in fact he should be ashamed to suggest there is.”

The report’s authors visited areas of high immigration including Dagenham, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

The group includes MPs mainly from Labour, but also from the Conservatives, Lib Dems and SNP.

August 25th, 2017: Standard