Free movement survives late night deal in Brussels

Author: Roger Casale




"I love Britain and Brussels", Donald Tusk; "I love Brussels more than everywhere else in the European Union", Jean-Claude Juncker
"I love Britain and Brussels", Donald Tusk; "I love Brussels more than everywhere else in the European Union", Jean-Claude Juncker


Fortunately, David Cameron has failed to secure a deal which (permanently) limits the rights of EU citizens to free movement.

The Prime Minister has secured his so-called "emergency brake" on in-work benefits paid to mobile EU citizens coming to Britain. However, it will not be his hand that is on the brake, despite his announcement to the contrary.

The brake is in the hand of the Council.  The Council may be ready to pull the brake for the UK already - but it is still the Council's hand on the brake. The European Parliament would need to pass the necessary legislation.  So the earliest the legislation could be in place is 2017 (if the UK stays in the EU).

See expert analysis from New Europeans' Guest Writer, Steve Peers

The emergency brake will operate like the transitional arrangements - after 7 years it will drop away. In the meantime, very few people will be affected because mobile EU citizens rarely apply for in-work benefits in the first four years. There is very little evidence to show that EU citizens are claiming in-work benefits on arrival in Britain.

As Jonathan Portes at NIESR has emphasized:

"Most EU migrants claiming tax credits have been here for longer than four years - often considerably longer."

The potential savings from David Cameron's "clamp down" on other benefits for mobile EU citizens are trivial and petty in the context of the national accounts. They amount to about £ 30m on some estimates. This is less than what it costs to run the Royal Opera House.

None of the measures will have an impact on the level of migration to the UK. So the notion that EU migration to the UK is going to be "controlled" is disingenuous and not supported by the facts.

EU citizens married to third country nationals will be affected by these changes - this is a very unfortunate but expected development.

Third country nationals married to EU citizens will no longer have the right to come to the UK under free movement rules.

This is not the position they find themselves in elsewhere in the EU. So it is a clear case of discrimination against the rights of third country nationals and shows how far the government would have gone in discriminating against EU citizens themselves had they been in a position to do so.

This issue also needs our urgent attention at New Europeans as we reach out not only to EU citizens but also to those who aspire to be citizens of Europe. 

The other issues that David Cameron has focused on in the renegotiation - the role of national parliaments, de-regulation, protection of non-Europe zone member states, could and should have been dealt with as part of the normal run of business in the EU. They did not need to be part of his renegotiation strategy.

Instead the Prime Minister has used up a generation of goodwill from our EU partners and allies, simply to placate his own party critics. Going forward, the chance of him being able to advance Britain's interests through proposing reforms through the normal cycle of EU business will be much diminished.

So what David Cameron actually comes back with from Brussels is a defeat (dressed up as a victory) on migration, a welcome defeat in the view of New Europeans. And a Pyrrhic victory on the minor concessions obtained in the other areas because they come at the expense of Britain's future negotiating power in Europe.

The important point for New Europeans after three years of campaigning is that free movement is intact. This is therefore a good result for Europe.  Without its core principles intact, the EU loses its value to the citizen.

The debate must finally move on to the benefits of migration and free movement to the UK and the rest of Europe - and we will continue to address this in our work going forward

Despite tomorrow's newspaper headlines in the UK, history may show that the Prime Minister picked the wrong issues, for the wrong reasons, and approached the negotiations in the wrong way.

Business in the EU is done through compromise and consensus, not by constantly insisting on special treatment for one's own member state.

This is particularly true of Britain which has such a good deal from the EU already and a reputation for not engaging with its partners in a reasonable way.

David Cameron said at his press conference following he deal : " I love Britain, I don't love Brussels."  This despite the fact that Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker had spent the last 48 hours helping him negotiate a face-saving deal.

Donald Tusk replied "I love Britain and I love Brussels" and quoted Winston Churchill.

Angela Merkel said she was relieved that the EU could now get back to dealing with the refugee crisis. 

Jean-Claude Juncker said "I love Brussels more than other parts of the European Union."

The "grown-ups" sounded relieved that they could get back to the serious business of dealing with the real challenges facing the family of European Union nations, such as the refugee crisis, rather than having to deal with petulant demands of an attention-seeking minor.

Alongside Britain's "special relationship" with the USA, David Cameron is now using the phrase "special status for Britain" within the EU. In neither case does the image of an equal partner spring to mind.

It is difficult to overstate the extent to which Britain has lost influence in Europe.

There is nevertheless a sense amongst the other EU member states that Europe as a whole is much better off with Britain in.

But that is now a matter for the British people (and the few mobile EU citizens who will have the vote in the referendum).

 


Roger Casale

About the Author

Roger Casale

Roger set up New Europeans and runs the initiative on a day-to-day basis.

He has experience in business, academia and politics both in the UK and internationally. He studied at Brasenose College Oxford and at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and holds a Master of Arts in International Affairs. He speaks Italian, German, French and a little Arabic. 

In 2009, he received the award of Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana from the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano for services to British-Italian relations. He is a former Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Foreign Office.

 

View all articles
Roger Casale

About the Author

Roger Casale

Roger set up New Europeans and runs the initiative on a day-to-day basis.

He has experience in business, academia and politics both in the UK and internationally. He studied at Brasenose College Oxford and at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and holds a Master of Arts in International Affairs. He speaks Italian, German, French and a little Arabic. 

In 2009, he received the award of Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana from the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano for services to British-Italian relations. He is a former Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Foreign Office.

 

View all articles
Close

Subscribe to email updates from New Europeans

Join our newsletter to receive the latest news and events from New Europeans.

* indicates required

Or be a part of it!

Join today Donate Volunteer Online Shop