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Britons to lose ‘free movement’ across Europe

Prime Minister Theresa May has unveiled the first details of Britain’s new tough Brexit immigration system, claiming that it will bring to an end free movement of people “once and for all”.

But this new ‘system’ will considerably hurt Britons and UK businesses.

The Prime Minister declared:

“Two years ago, the British public voted to leave the European Union and take back control of our borders. When we leave we will bring in a new immigration system that ends freedom of movement once and for all.”

It means EU citizens will no longer have the right to come and live and work in the UK.

But it also works the other way around:

  • UK citizens will lose ‘the right’ to live, work, study or retire across much of our continent (all 27 EU countries, and any new ones joining, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein).
  • We may also have to apply and pay for visas to go on holiday or business trips across much of our continent.

Theresa May’s announcement assumes that ‘free movement’ has been bad for Britain, and that it’s meant we lost control of our borders. This is incorrect.

Free movement of people – a cornerstone and foundational principle of the EU – has been a boon not only for our continent, but for our country too.

  • It’s meant that British workers have all of the EU and EEA countries to seek work.
  • And it’s meant that British businesses have all the of the EU and EEA to seek workers.
  • This system has worked well.

Britain has record numbers of high employment and low unemployment. So, what’s the problem?

Citizens from the rest of the EU in the UK represent just 5% of our population – that’s small, and hardly ‘uncontrolled immigration’.

Furthermore, the vast majority of those citizens are in gainful employment, making a significant NET contribution to our Treasury and economy, and doing jobs that we simply don’t have enough Britons to do.

Only a small proportion are taking unemployment benefits (about 2% of the UK’s total claimants).

As for borders, we already control them. Everyone coming to the country or leaving has to pass border controls.

Under existing rules, EU citizens are not allowed to move to another EU country unless they can afford to do so. They can’t just arrive and claim benefits. Furthermore, Britain can refuse entry to, or deport, EU migrants who are considered a threat to the country’s security, health, etc.

Our jobs market has been an excellent controller of inward EU migration. If there are no jobs, EU migrants either mostly don’t come or don’t stay.

We need millions of migrants in Britain because we have millions more jobs than Britons to do them.

But under Mrs May’s new plans, complicated and burdensome tiers of bureaucracy will be imposed on businesses before they can hire a member of staff from the EU or any other country.

Lower paid foreign workers will be given the lowest priority and British firms will be discouraged and deterred from hiring them.

So, who will work in our care homes, restaurants, hotels, farms and factories when we don’t have enough Britons to do that work, and just as pertinently, not enough Britons who want to do that work?

In a statement announcing the immigration shake-up Mrs May said:

“For the first time in decades, it will be this country that controls and chooses who we want to come here.” 

But this is a smokescreen.

When she says “we” will control and choose who comes here, she doesn’t mean you or me. We will have no control over who comes here.

It will be civil servants deciding who can come here, in a new and complicated system that will involve businesses having to pay the government considerable fees before they can hire an employee from abroad.

If Britain had many millions of unemployed Britons, such a policy could be understandable. But with more Britons at work than ever before, and the lowest unemployment rate for decades, there is no evidence that EU migrants here have taken British jobs.

On the contrary, there is considerable evidence that EU migrants here have helped to expand our economy, creating more jobs for all of us.

But as well as hurting British businesses, Mrs May’s new plans will hurt Britons. Brexit means we will lose ‘the right’ to live, work, study or retire across a huge expanse of our continent.

How backward is that?

Ironically, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, this month ridiculously compared the EU to the defunct USSR. But it was the USSR that also restricted free movement of people.

By contrast, the EU has opened up our continent for its citizens to freely move across it.

Free movement of people across Europe was a prescient vision of Winston Churchill.

After the first British victory of the Second World War at El Alamein, Prime Minister Churchill wrote to his foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, on 21 October 1942:

‘Hard as it is to say now.. I look forward to a United States of Europe, in which the barriers between the nations will be greatly minimised and unrestricted travel will be possible.’

In a lecture about this in December 2011, Oxford Professor of Government, Vernon Bogdanor, described Churchill’s letter as, “remarkably prescient” adding that he thought the comment, “would get him expelled from the Conservative Party today”.

EU citizenship rights have taken decades to win and achieve. These rights were fully debated and democratically passed by our Parliament in Westminster.

Our current burgundy UK passports, embossed with ‘European Union’ on the front, currently give us the right to reside, work, study or retire across the entire European Union plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Those rights for Britons will be lost when we are scheduled to leave the EU in March 2019, although the right is anticipated to be briefly and temporarily extended in a so-called transition period until December 2020 (but only if we leave the EU with a deal in place).

But Brexiters apparently can’t wait for our passports to turn from burgundy to blue, and to lose the EU symbol on the front and all that it represents.

  • Our new blue British passports will give us the privilege of enduring longer queues at border controls when visiting EU/EEA member states after Brexit.

That will be fun, won’t it?

So much for progress.

Over the course of our membership of the EU, millions of Britons have taken advantage of our EU citizenship rights, mostly to work in other EU countries, but also to study, retire and buy holiday homes and residences.

Without EU membership, going to live and work in other EU countries will still be possible, but it won’t be a ‘right’, so it won’t be as easy as now, and in many cases, it simply won’t be achievable.

  • Before the EU, British citizens most often had to apply for work and residency visas to live in other European countries.

Nostalgia beckons. Those times are soon to return.

  • Our EU citizenship rights also mean that when we live and work in any other EU country, we can enjoy many of the same rights as the citizens of that country, including reciprocal employment rights, the right to access state healthcare and education, and to vote in local and European Parliament elections.

Not to worry. We will also lose those rights after Brexit.

Losing the right to free movement to live and work across our continent will be a HUGE LOSS when Brexit happens, scheduled for 11pm on 29 March 2019.

It’s no surprise that many Britons living in the rest of Europe, and many citizens from the rest of Europe now living in Britain, are still anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Brexit negotiations to know for sure what will be their rights after Brexit, if any.

Let’s summarise what’s on the horizon, unless we can democratically reverse our course:

  • Brexit means losing rights, not gaining any.
  • Brexit means Britain cutting itself off from the mainland of Europe.
  • Brexit means we will be poorer, and with less sovereignty, fewer rights and protections, restricted trade and travel, and diminished power after we’ve left.

No wonder so many Britons are now saying, ‘We want our continent back’.

  • Video: What we lose when we leave

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