Journal Article

Why Brexit? The toxic mix of immigration and austerity

On June 23, 2016, the UK narrowly voted to exit the European Union. Population issues—especially relating to the effect of population growth on infrastructure and public services and the need to “take back control” over immigration—played a central role in the campaigns (“Leave” and “Remain”) leading up to the vote. I argue that the Leave campaign engaged in reckless scaremongering over the demographic effects of membership in the EU, while the Remain campaign was stifled by its commitment to a policy of fiscal austerity. The leader of the Labour Party, while putatively in the Remain camp, was strikingly circumspect in his support.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council. Stuart Gietel-Basten is Associate Professor in Social Policy, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford.