If most of us believe in free movement with the EU, why are we leaving the Single Market?

There was also considerable optimism in European countries for the future of the bloc [Image: Getty].

This Writer is working hard to understand what’s going on with Brexit – and it’s uphill work because most of the information coming from the government descended into nonsense gibberish many months ago.

One aspect that seems clear is that the minority Conservative government wants to end the free movement of EU citizens into and out of the United Kingdom, claiming that this will bring immigration levels down to a reasonable level.

I have never understood this claim. The UK has always had access to controls on EU immigration – and the numbers would be far less horrific if the Tories did the decent thing and removed foreign students, who are only in the UK temporarily, from the figures.

Overseas students are a benefit to the UK economy and restrictions on free movement that would prevent them from coming here would harm it. And with the balance of payments deficit standing at more than four times the UK’s annual gross domestic product, it would be madness to make it worse.

In other words, we already have all the controls we need, if we want to curb immigration. The simple fact is that the Conservatives never used them.

Now I see this, in the Independent:

A majority of the British public support the free movement of citizens to live, work, study and do business anywhere in the EU, according to a new survey mapping public opinion across Europe.

It comes after a spokesman for Theresa May confirmed earlier this week that free movement would end when Britain formally leaves the EU in March 2019 – the deadline set for the conclusion of Brexit talks.

But the barometer of public opinion – commissioned by the EU Commission – appears to contradict the commonly held view that British people are not in favour of free movement.

[The EU Commission’s ‘Spring 2017 – Standard Eurobarometer’ data] also claimed that despite the UK voting to leave the bloc at the referendum last year, an increasing majority – 56 per cent – of people in the EU were optimistic about its future. The most significant increase in optimism came from French respondents with 55 per cent now optimistic about the bloc’s future – an 11 per cent increase on the same survey in the autumn of 2016.

But among British respondents, optimism was much lower on 39 per cent while just 20 per cent believed the British economy would improve in the coming year.

So, on top of the facts that EU immigration can be controlled and that the figures are inflated by wrongly including students, a majority of UK citizens don’t want free movement to end.

Perhaps another reason they may have been persuaded is the fact that public services like the NHS get good staff from the EU. Remember that hospital in Scotland, where a man with chest pains was sent home with Gaviscon and died later that same day? It is in a remote area and, it seems, relies on foreign staff because they’re the only ones willing to work there; UK citizens see it as a hindrance to their prospects.

So, when you put it all together, there are strong arguments for maintaining freedom of movement with EU countries.

The added bonus is that retaining freedom of movement could mean retaining access to the EU Single Market, and the cheaper trading it represents.

So why are our politicians hell-bent on stopping it?

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7 thoughts on “If most of us believe in free movement with the EU, why are we leaving the Single Market?

  1. NMac

    The answer to the question posed is that in control of our government there is a nasty hard core clique of right-wing Tories whose minds are stuck in the past and who are incapable of working alongside people from other nations unless they are lording it over them.

  2. Barry Davies

    The freedom of movement is one of the pillars of the eu. The market has nothing to do wit it this is just one of verhofstadts incorrect claims. Although it is only supposed to be freedom of movement to work, like the Americans incorrect version of the right to carry arms, it is actually musket to be able to form a militia, the eCJ wrongly enforces nations to see the migrants, just like the quota system for non eu migrants from the middle east and north africa, it has no basis in law but is imposed. Add to that the horrendous costs of going through the ECJ and the eHCR to deport just one out of work person with the right of entry from and eu nation and you can see why the law is there but is not able to be initiated.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It’s not a false claim; it’s a negotiating position. The EU will not allow us access to the Single Market if we don’t accept free movement.
      Bear in mind also that we have controls on EU immigration that the Tories have never used.
      Your comment about the cost of deporting anybody who is out of work is the first I’ve heard of it. We have the right to send them back if they do not meet certain criteria.

      1. wildthing666

        So what if they won’t allow access to the single marketthere is only 500 million in the EU compared to 2 billion outside the EU. Suck it up EU

  3. Andrew Carter

    Let me state from the start I am not against the free movement of Labour. In fact I would quite happily subscribe to a world without borders, however with this argument it would be interesting to calculate the amount of people gathered wholesale from abroad to fill the jobs that allegedly a UK resident would not do. Is it really necessary for a company like Greencore to advertise sandwich making positions in Bulgaria for a factory in Woksop ? I do not ‘buy’ into the standard answer that companies and CEO’s give about the attitude of British workers when I witness the greed these company executives pay themselves from the backs of these workers. It is the same with agriculture and seasonal workers. Currently Brit Rail has drafted in many workers from abroad because they have the ‘necessary skills’ to do the job. I simply don’t believe it. It is far easier for Brit Rail to employ an agency to pick up cheap labour and use the vagaries of employment law to skip their responsibilities.

  4. Zippi

    If this is true, why has nobody in media made this public? Why, also, did both sides of the Campaign, tell us, in no uncertain terms, that a vote leave the E.U. meant leaving the Single Market? Call-Me-Dave said it, Gideon said it, Boris and Gove said it, too. If it were not true, why did they all say it? If the point about immigration controls is also true, why was £abour not shouting it from the rooftops? Why IS £abour not shouting it from the rooftops? I have heard whispers but nothing concrete and nothing that anybody with any clout has supported. I have heard about transitional arrangements, when free movement was introduced, which £abour, allegedly, rejected but that it all. Nothing about actually controlling who can come here from the E.U.
    Personally, my only gripe, with regard to immigration, is the bias towards E.U. citizens, unless, of course, what you say is true. I would like all immigrants to be given the same opportunity, regardless of whence they come. I am fed up of hearing statistics that show more people came from outside the E.U. than from within it; of course they did; there are more people there! It is like comparing the number of E.U. migrants in the U.K. to the number of U.K. migrants in the E.U. We are one country, they are many so, the effect, positive or negative, of U.K. citizens in the rest of the E.U. is diluted when compared to that of E.U. migrants in the U.K.

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