You will I’m sure remember that during the negotiation process between then UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the EU, it couldn’t have been any more clearly stated that restricting the freedom of movement of people was non-negotiable. David Cameron came back from those negotiations virtually empty-handed. Weak to the point that the people of the UK were not going to be convinced and ultimately, and for many predictably, voted for Brexit.
Well, the strange thing is that as the United Kingdom packs its bags and heads for the door, the EU has decided to contemplate the very idea that tipped the Brexit vote over the edge; in what they have called ‘The White Paper on the future Europe’. The Commission is putting one of its so-called four fundamentals on the line, limiting the freedom of movement of people.
The ‘White Paper’ offers five scenarios on how the EU will look in 2025. 1. Carrying on as we are, 2. Nothing but the single market, 3. Those who want to do more do more, 4. Doing less more efficiently, and 5. Doing much more together.
When one reads into the detail of these five scenarios it is clear that option two and three open up the possibility that if a country so chooses then it could restrict the freedom of movement of people.
So in theory, by December we could have a situation whereby the EU will have decided that its future lies with scrapping the freedom of movement of people, while at the same time be negotiating with the UK on the basis that there can be no trade deal without freedom of movement of people. Work that out! I mean, if they had engaged in this process before the UK left, would we now be in this position?
In the Commission press release on ‘The White Paper’ they say that there will be a series of ‘Future of Europe Debates’ across Europe’s cities and regions in the coming months to “harvest and harness opinions on the desired way forward”. In September President Juncker will present these ‘opinions’ to the Parliament. The European Council will draw conclusions in December.
The Commissioan also points to the next European Parliament elections as being the deciding factor in which path we choose. Good. This will finally get political parties in Ireland to nail their colours to the mast on where they stand on the EU. I clearly favour option two or three which returns sovereignty to the nation state. But where do our other Irish MEPs stand on this? Will they choose option five? If they do then we can say goodbye to this country. Budgets decided centrally. Ireland a mere region in the United States of Europe. Your children committed to a European Army. No thanks.
People talk a lot about how the European Union is a peace project. They should remember we had peace before Lisbon and Nice. More than we do now. Let’s get back to what actually worked.
The big question though is how serious are the EU about this process. Will it be a case of token consultation with a predetermined ‘ever closer union’ outcome. We’ll see. But now that this process has started, the Commission must be forced to take it seriously. Let the process begin!
* Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is an Independent MEP for Midlands-North West constituency.