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A call to end free movement is a call for Brexit

Anna Sonny, 8 October 2015

Home Secretary Theresa May and Mayor of London Boris Johnson both addressed freedom of movement at the Conservative Party Conference this week, albeit it in very distinct tones and from different angles.

May underlined the lack of economic advantage that EU immigration brings the UK, while Johnson discussed British concerns over immigration within the framework of the democracy; concerns are over a lack of control and rapid change that the UK’s infrastructure is not prepared for, and the feeling that migration numbers should be decided democratically in the UK according to what works best domestically, instead of being imposed by Brussels. The UK’s sovereignty and right to decide this is undermined by all-encompassing EU law.

By knowingly calling for something that will be almost impossible for Cameron to negotiate, both May and Johnson are implicitly calling for Brexit. It is already clear that our EU membership means migration from the EU is out of our hands unless we leave the EU altogether. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has ruled out treaty change regarding freedom of movement of people; it is one of the four cornerstones of the EU– and Eastern European countries are not likely to accept it because of the benefits for their citizens. If Britain did decide to leave the 28 member bloc, there is a slight possibility that the EU would offer to curb free movement to keep us in, but David Cameron cannot bank on this.

The only thing the prime minister can do in his bid for a reformed membership is to remind the British public that freedom of movement works both ways – that as EU citizens we can live, study, work and trade freely with other EU member states. Whether the British public decide that this benefit is worth the trade-off of having no control over EU immigration, will be seen at the EU referendum.

 

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