There is little connection between racism and calls for greater immigration control, according to a think tank.
Despite claims that last year’s EU referendum was driven by xenophobic attitudes towards immigration, British people are actually ‘nuanced and sophisticated’ on the subject, Open Europe’s study found.
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Aarti Shankar, a policy analyst for Open Europe, said: ‘We found that Brexit is too often wrongly seen as a mandate to pull up the drawbridge.
‘In fact most people have a relatively nuanced view and can articulate both the advantages and disadvantages immigration brings.
‘We found little evidence that the desire to control migration was driven by racism or xenophobia.’
There was a spate of racist hate crime in the UK after the Brexit vote, and previous studies have linked the outcome of the referendum to racism.
But Open Europe disagrees, claiming its poll of 4,000 Brits found that a majority (54%) want net migration to be cut to tens of thousands per year.
In total, 56% support a controlled migration system where immigrants contribute to society, but another 36% simply want to reduce the number of people coming in.
People are more concerned by an immigrant’s criminal record than their race or ethnicity, the research found, and there is support for migrants who can fill ‘socially useful’ roles – such as doctors and teachers – to come to the UK.
Ms Shankar added: ‘There is overwhelming support for migrants coming to the UK in areas where we have skills shortages and to do socially-useful roles, for example as doctors, nurses or teachers.
‘At the same time, the public believe that migrants’ access to welfare and public services should be restricted.
‘Despite divisions on immigration, our research points to common ground between the priorities of Leavers and Remainers.
‘Brexit offers the UK a chance to reset the debate and build a new immigration system which can attract popular consent.’
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