After Decades of EU Membership, Brits Most Concerned about Immigration

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain is the country most …

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Britain is the country most worried about immigration and border control, according to a global survey published on Thursday as the government vowed to crack down on migration as it prepares to leave the European Union.

Forty-two percent of Britons surveyed said they feared immigration, compared to 41 percent in Germany and 33 percent in Sweden, which both have taken much larger numbers of migrants in proportion to their population than the UK.

Britain will trigger the formal process to leave the EU by March 2017 after 52 percent of Britons voted in June to leave the bloc amid concerns about immigration, deteriorating public services, competition for jobs and a general economic malaise.

“Britain is most worried about immigration from all 25 countries included in the study, showing that the concern very clearly flagged in the EU referendum has not subsided,” Bobby Duffy, managing director of UK-based pollsters Ipsos MORI, which carried out the survey said in a statement.

British Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said bringing down migration is a priority for the government as it prepares to exit the EU.

“Reducing the number of migrants coming to the UK will be a priority in our negotiations to leave the EU,” Goodwill said in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are also committed to reducing non-EU migration across all visa routes in order to bring net migration down to sustainable levels as soon as possible,” the minister said.

Britain is also the most concerned about the rise of extremism, with 28 percent of those surveyed citing it as an issue in the “What Worries the World” survey.

Other countries concerned about extremism include Germany (27%), Belgium and Sweden (both 25%), and France (21%).

Globally, the poll found unemployment is the biggest concern, with 38 percent of all those surveyed fearing not to find work, while 33 percent worried about poverty and social inequality.

In China, where efforts are under way to enforce controls over high levels of air pollution, 21 percent said they wanted more to be done about climate change.

Ipsos MORI carried out its survey of adults under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.

The pollsters interviewed just over 18,000 people in an online poll conducted between late August and early September.