The United Kingdom is absorbing the equivalent of “a pretty large city” each year, says a British cabinet minister, and leaving the European Union may be the only way to stem the tide of new arrivals.
Chris Grayling, who also serves as Leader of the House of Commons. has been campaigning hard for an exit from the European Union as the U.K. prepares to hold a referendum on the question this coming week. His central argument is that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are simply too small to handle the number of people who want to move in.
“The flood of refugees coming in from the Middle East into central Europe is a different question to the one that we face,” Grayling told the West Block’s Tom Clark.
“The issue in the United Kingdom is this: We have seen a big increase in our population over the course of the past 15 years. We are currently seeing the equivalent of a pretty large city arrive in the United Kingdom every year and we’re a relatively small country.”
According to Grayling, that is leading to a loss of open spaces, pressure on public services, and more congested transport systems, to name a few issues. While the British remain part of the EU, he argued, any other European citizen can come settle in the U.K.
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“I think the people of the United Kingdom should have a choice about this future. They should be able to set limits on the number of people who come and live and work in the United Kingdom.”
Opponents of what has been dubbed “Brexit” argue that leaving the EU will have serious economic consequences, particularly when it comes to international trade. But Grayling says he doesn’t buy that.
“There are five million EU jobs that depend on British consumers. It makes no sense for them to not want to carry on trading as normal.”
Supporters on both sides of the Brexit debate have been engaged in a sometimes heated and aggressive campaign that will likely reach fever pitch in the coming week.
Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, recently made waves when he unveiled a billboard that some deemed racist for featuring a long line of non-white migrants.
Voting for the referendum will take place this coming Thursday.
Late last week, however, campaigning was temporarily suspended after an MP, Jo Cox, was murdered in broad daylight by a man who allegedly shouted “Britain First” as he shot and stabbed her to death.
The suspect, who reportedly had ties to Neo-Nazi groups in the UK, was quickly apprehended and appeared in court on Saturday.
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