The Brexit negotiations will come down to this!
Free movement of people within the European Union came about via the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992. Which also came about from the earlier 1957 Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and concerned the free movement of workers and of establishment of right. A key part in making this all work and establishing an internal market with free movement of persons was the conclusion of the two Schengen agreements, i.e. the Agreement proper of 14 June 1985, and the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement, which was signed on 19 June 1990 and entered into force on 26 March 1995. The UK and Denmark both opt out of the agreement for Schengen so still have border controls.
The free movement of people within the EU is said to be one of the four founding principles of the EU that allows EU citizens to live, work and travel with the European Union, there are many politicians and people in general in the UK who are against the free movement of people. Many believe that EU citizens are benefit migrants, take people’s jobs, are a burden on social services and are a security risk to the United Kingdom. A huge part of the EU Referendum debate, more so in England, and definitely within the right wing media was the idea of ‘taking back control’.
Many, like Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats, argue that free movement is not a universal right as it does not allow for the free movement of non-EU citizens in any way. Vince has written that ‘ There is no great argument of liberal principle for free EU movement; the economics is debatable; and the politics is conclusively hostile’.
However, Free movement is seen as very popular among EU Politicians and seen as a way to bring about stronger feelings of European citizenship. The feeling of European citizenship has been growing since 2010 according to Robert Schuman of European Issues. 67% of Europeans feel that they are citizens of the European Union. This is the deal breaker, and I don’t see anyway around this for the United Kingdom, the simple fact is that the EU will not compromise on free movement, they also have the backing on this issue by many EU citizens.
This is where the United Kingdom Government is caught between a rock and an even bigger rock. Many voters in the UK will not accept the free movement of people into the UK, and the EU will not accept the blocking of EU citizens into the UK or any EU member state. This leaves the UK looking at World Trade Agreement rules, all of which are deemed awful by most economists etc. Some will argue that the UK could, and will join NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), but there will be no guarantee of that and who is to say Americans, Canadians etc will want the risk of the UK taking trade from them.
I voted leave and I am not here to re-hash the arguments, but it is an unholy mess that will punish the UK more than it will punish the EU. As I have said before, I totally regret how my leave vote has been used. This does beg the question though, does another General Election and disaster loom?
I cannot see how the Conservatives can negotiate the so called soft Brexit of access to the Common Market and Customs Union without free movement, the EU can’t be seen to back down and can probably absorb the shocks better that the UK. Will the EU ride to the rescue, as some commentators have suggested, with a new EU Treaty that the UK would have to vote on but could be a way of letting the UK off of the hook and the cliff edge, I’m not so sure. What a shambles, the UK has never been more divided and another General Election could actually make it worse. Any thoughts anyone?