THE NATIONAL INTEREST — The vote by Britons on Thursday to leave the European Union doubled as a referendum on how the country views the issue of immigration.
With immigration at an all-time high in Britain, voters concerned about related issues such as economic uncertainty and sovereignty decided to shed their national identity by voting to upend 43 years of life inside the European Union.
The tension over immigration is similar to what’s playing out in the United States, but different in an important way, in that Britain, as a European Union member, has no control of its borders.
That’s because as long as Britain is in the European Union, it has to allow anyone from the 28-member bloc to live and work there.
According to experts, Britain has experienced the changing face of immigration over the years.
Stephen Booth, the co-director of Open Europe, a nonpartisan think tank based in London and Brussels, said that of the roughly 5 million net immigrants to the United Kingdom between 1990 and 2014, over three-quarters came from outside Europe.