wombus: From all the friends and relatives I have back in Blighty they are all saying we are over full we have no more room for more immigrants, and also that these immigrants receive welfare payments that are mostly going back to fund their families back in the east (that's how they perceive it). This is such an enormous contentious issue with them it totally overshadows any other debate regards staying or going in the EU. The fear now is Turkey may soon have access and a new wave of people will come. I'm no expert on this and have not seen any trending poles as to how the referendum may go, but my gut feeling is that getting out of the EU has overwhelming majority support with the Brits.
This is a very fundamental issue to many, yes.
Britain has had to deal with a number of waves of immigration since WW2 - from the West Indies in the 50's and 60's, India, Pakistan etc in the 70's and then from Uncle Tom Cobbelly and all since the Common Market became the EU.
There are a number of places in the UK now where schools have no 'native' pupils and where English is not the first language for any of the pupils.
I suspect what annoys more people than immigration per se is that they have been forced to accommodate vast numbers and been told that they must change their ways to accommodate the incomers rather than the other way around and in quite significant ways. There are schools, for example, where pork was removed from the school food menus 'just in case' it offended the religious sensibilities of anyone. By anyone, we must infer Muslims, because Jews have lived happily in Britain and attended school there since ages ago without the need for this. There are Sharia religious courts operating in British cities.
It's pretty hard to explain it to anyone who has not actually experienced the changes in Britain over the last 40 or 50 years first hand. Even harder to explain why successive governments of all stripes have been so keen on diluting the homogeneity of society to such a great degree.
Skilled migration is a very good thing: it acts on the society in the same way that disruptors such as Amazon etc have acted on commerce and economics. However, unlike NZ which closely examines all those who wish to come and live here from elsewhere, Britain has not done that in any serious way and indeed CANNOT do it to EU residents by law.
If it were the United States Of Europe, I could see that free movement would be necessary in the same way that it is necessary between California and New York State. However, it is not the USE. Free movement IF YOU HAVE A JOB TO GO TO is fine. Free movement where you pick the country with the best benefits and then move there to collect them from the taxpayers of that country and send them home to Turkey, Romania or wherever it may be is not likely to be a policy that home populations will tolerate ad infinitum, especially when their own economies begin to suffer and they find that they cannot get the healthcare, transport etc they want because so much is being spent on people who are effectively foreigners.
Combine this with the fact that unlike NZ, Britain has never had (at least in my lifetime) any restriction on foreign property ownership at all, so wealthy foreign people from outside the EU have been free to own country estates and farms, London homes and so forth without constraint as well.
So yes it is a big issue. All my remaining family in the UK and all my friends intend to vote to leave almost entirely as a result of this issue alone. Second is the amount of money Britain pays in which they feel would be better spent in Britain.
(Note - do not interpret this as a rant! It's an attempt to explain why so many people in the UK feel rather put upon when it comes to immigration.)
Is the former "issue" of immigration related to the fact that the British colonized those people and extracted the wealth of those lands in the past?