We damage Britain by denying its migrant past

Brexiters spoke of ‘taking our country back’. But that was based on a false notion who we are as a people, and of our history of immigration Why has Britain’s response to the dismantling of the refugee camp in Calais been so lively – or ugly? Because it raises fundamental questions about who we are as a country.

Migration is being discussed, but it’s a debate bedevilled by myth. There never was a time when Britain and the British identity was impervious to migration. Migration to Britain didn’t begin when we joined the EU. The more common but equally faulty story that Britain slowly developed organically from Anglo-Saxon roots, until the Windrush arrived from the Caribbean and changed everything, is an increasingly embarrassing sign that we simply don’t know the facts of our own history. The key economic, political and cultural events in our history – Roman Britain, the development of the English language, Magna Carta, the industrial revolution, the world wars – cannot be understood without reference to migration …

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