Leaving the EU tomorrow legitimizes anti-immigrant sentiment.

The Leave campaign is inciting prejudice to mask their erroneous facts for Britain to exit the EU.

Credit ALAMY

A few words about tomorrow’s election on whether Britain should remain in the European Union (EU) or leave (‘Brexit’).

First things first — Please vote. I am increasingly worried that there are thousands of people feeling uninformed or apathetic towards this vote, or just forget to buy an umbrella for tomorrow and decide not to show up.

Once this decision is made it cannot be undone. Bear that in mind whichever way you vote tomorrow. Yours is an important vote.

I am hopeful that the outcome will be that Britain remains in the EU. I think it is the best solution for Britain, for Britain’s neighbours and for the rest of Europe. This is only the third UK-wide referendum in history (the first was the entry into the EC, now EU in 1975). Tomorrow is a crucial day for the future of the European Union.

I know that I exist within an echo chamber on social media with the large majority of people saying they support remaining in, but I also know that indifference for this government is strong and that voter apathy is high. We have seen apathy for the current US government factor into the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate there. Usually the most opinionated come out hardest.

The scary scenario in my opinion, is the vote to leave.

There are issues with the EU – it is a large, tedious bureaucracy. It moves at a snail’s pace. It demands large financial investment. The politicians inside there are not always visible or even elected by the people. There are understandable feelings that the EU being decision maker is less power for individual nations in deciding their own destinies.

The Leave campaign

It is up to the Leave Campaign to convince the population of Britain to exit. Hard facts, inspirational stories, stimulating debate. Unfortunately, that is not the campaign they ran. The scary part of the leave vote to me, is the emotional charge behind the campaigns. Essentially it hinges on immigration. This is something you see over and over in the ‘Leave’ campaign, spearheaded by Nigel Farage.

The people in Nigel Farage’s Anti-EU poster are refugees, victims of a human tragedy entering Slovenia for refuge.

There is a common thread across Europe, Britain, Australia and the US at the moment, one that is anti-immigrant. At it’s worst it is prejudice, it is xenophobia, it is racism. At best, it’s fear of over population, fear of the unknown, and fear of change. The Leave campaign are shifting focus to that fear.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, said Farag was “inexcusable pandering to people’s worries and prejudices, that is, giving legitimisation to racism… accentuating [people’s] fear for political gain, and that is absolutely unacceptable.”

It is so easy for the leave campaign, and Trump in the US for that matter, to blame immigrants for their countries’ problems and get people behind that as a lever to exit the EU. Riling up the emotions so they can gloss over the facts. Immigrants don’t have a voice, or a vote. They are a soft target. It is easier to point the finger at people of a different nationality coming across your borders, poor, exhausted and dirty than it is to build a cohesive, strategic plan for population increase. I have yet to see one. The truth is, no-one in Westminster knows how many immigrants come into the UK every year. But the fear that they are ‘taking over’ or that ‘this is not the country it used to be’ is real, and has been exploited in this referendum build up. The other truth is, nations need immigrants. They boost the workforce, they do jobs that locals won’t do, they bring diversity, innovation, ideas.

Please, don’t confuse patriotism with discrimination.

It is great to be patriotic. I am an extremely proud Irishman, a proud European. I am so happy to have had free right of passage inside Europe as a member of the EU. I studied in Britain, I opened a bank account, I started a job, I started a company, I left my appendix is in an NHS bin bag. The EU paid for some of my college tuition. I didn’t give up any of my nationalistic pride. There are fear of nationals from Romania, Bulgaria or Turkey coming into Britain, because people are uncomfortable with those immigrants. 
But the flipside is that any British person can travel and live inside the EU and going freely to another country to work or carve out a better life. We don’t mind those immigrants. Being part of the EU is facilitating that freedom. If the UK pulls away from Europe, there would almost certainly be a border reopened on the island of Ireland making travel, trade and tensions difficult to manage.

I am now a legal immigrant in the USA, a resident alien specifically. I went through a few years of frustration and a mountain of forms and paperwork to get here. When I got off the flight from Ireland to England in 2004, I literally walked through immigration without even a stamp on my passport. If Britain leaves the EU, they will not only make the borders more difficult to cross for illegal immigrants (or unwanted ones), but also for skilled labour. Britain needs the skilled labour, immigrants help build society. Only 2.5% of welfare in 2014 was to EU immigrants.

I haven’t spelled out many of the claims by the Leave campaign. There are not many. There are a lot of mis-facts. The majority of their claims don’t stand up to criticism at all. As they have focused mainly on the emotions, sound bites and chants (Trump much?), I am attempting to debunk those.

In the morning, I wish that everyone set aside emotion, research the facts for yourself, think of your place in the world, remember the gravity of this decision, think of your bordering neighbours and vote for inclusion.

I fully realise that the readers of Medium will be of a certain generation and segment. I probably don’t need to preach to you if you are reading this. But go tell your aunt and uncles, your parents and grandparents. Go and inform. Go out and vote. Go out and say yes to freedom of movement, freedom of trade and more diversity within bordered nations.

These thoughts are my own. I lived in the UK for 10 years. I am an Irish native and now US resident so tomorrow I cannot vote.