More importantly, 58 percent of settled migrants are of the view that the United Kingdom is facing a ‘population crises’. Indigenous Britons are more apprehensive about the economic implication of the foreign influx believing that ‘their jobs’ are usurped by the immigrants. More than three fourths of those interviewed want stricter controls for immigration while some even stating that the government should do away with immigration altogether. The rest of the survey is consistent with this trend and there is public opposition of varying degrees to unfettered immigration into the United Kingdom. It is no surprise then that the New Labour rhetoric over the last few years has undergone a transition. From being leading promoters of ethnic and cultural diversity, the government has turned toward garnering voter support, as its attitude toward some new entrants to the EU fold shows (Verdun, 2005).
The issue of legal and illegal immigration is not just confined to Britain. Most of the Western European democracies have been equivocal their position in public rhetoric. Some political commentators have pointed out how such differential treatment of émigrés has undermined the purported economic consolidation within the European Union and made a “mockery of the ideal of free movement of labour in a united Europe” (Cohen, 2005). There is also bad news in store for Asylum-seekers, as they are denied housing and other benefits until “they have been granted leave to remain” (Cohen, 2005). As a result of this restriction, the numbers of asylum seekers who are accommodated in these countries have steadily declined in the last three years. Studies have also shown that only a small number of immigrants get accommodated in social housing schemes. Immigrants are almost always disadvantaged against the locals due to an unfair points-based system that some governments employ to allocate houses.
2. The Lack of Political Clout:
The story of European Integration so far has been largely confined to the realm of economics and commerce. Despite having a total population that is greater than that of the United States of America, having a combined GDP that is comparable to it and possessing military technology that is on par with the only global superpower, the EU remains a weak force in international diplomacy. In other words, the collective effort that’s been behind the success of EU’s economic and social solidarity, has not translated into political power. This was made evident in the days leading up to the Iraq War of 2003. Despite overwhelming opposition from most countries in the world and many of its own citizens, the two key members of the EU, namely France and Germany, could not pressurize the USA to drop the idea. In effect the USA continues to be the only global superpower, with the EU playing a marginal role in countering its authority. This imbalance of power is not healthy for world polity. And the sooner it gets remedied the better. In the matter of international politics, some of the members of the EU are caught in a dilemma between their commitment to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union. NATO continues to be a relic of the Cold War period, after which it has lost its significance. (Asselborn, 2006)
3. EU’s struggle for legitimacy:
As the key leaders within the EU grapple with addressing the aforementioned challenges, there is one other smaller challenge facing its leadership, namely that of public perception both within and outside the union. Yet, the success or failure in this area could prove to be crucial in deciding the future course of European Integration. Oliver Schmidtke elaborates this challenge thus:
“At this time, the EU faces unprecedented uncertainty regarding its political future. This uncertainty has nothing to do with the effectiveness of any of the EU’s key policies, or even the latest round of enlargement, the accession of Bulgaria and Romania. Rather, the uncertainty about the future results from public perceptions. The Union is struggling with a fundamental legitimacy problem. The more ambitious its goals become (in terms of intensifying the integration of its member states into a wider political union), the more it becomes clear how much this transnational community’s legitimacy depends on a more pronounced identification of its citizens with the European cause. This was painfully evident in 2005 with the failed Dutch and French referenda on the proposed European Constitution”. (Schmidtke, 2007)