Britain always had the opportunity to refuse EU citizens benefit and send them back to their country but were the only EU country not to sign up. There was no need to have to house or provide benefits to anyone. If they had signed up it would have removed a great feeling of anger in a lot of people. They were only able to come for 3 months without work under EU law. Why did Britain choose not to implement it?
All the aggravation and fear of immigration from the EU could have been prevented under EU law. Britain alone did not enforce the law. Potatoes being harvested by migrant seasonal workers. ‘Freedom of movement is specifically tied to agreed, contracted employment and recognises the need to balance labour supply and demand,’ writes Jon Bloomfield. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
On Europe, the key issue is not article 50. Rather, the answer to the question (Editorial, 6 January) on how to combine a border regime that is fluid enough to preserve economic dynamism and rigorous enough to inspire public confidence lies in articles 48 and 49 of the original treaty of Rome. Article 48 states that “freedom of movement for workers shall entail the right (a) to accept offers of employment actually made; (b) to move freely within the territory of member states for this purpose.” Article 49 calls for “the achievement of a balance between supply and demand in the employment market in such a way as to avoid serious threats to the standard of living and level of employment in the various regions and industries”.
In other words, the treaty is not a neoliberal free for all. Freedom of movement is specifically tied to agreed, contracted employment and recognises the need to balance labour supply and demand. Here is the basis for a serious negotiation between the UK and the rest of the EU. These articles offer the framework for Andrea Leadsom to argue for seasonal agricultural labour and for hospitals and care homes to be able to recruit staff as required. Returning to the original principles of the treaty of Rome would be in the interests of all parties. It would permit a migration policy managed according to the needs of the economy. Are there British and European politicians up to the task?
• Since 2004, European Union law has allowed governments to control movements of EU citizens as follows: allow EU citizens to freely circulate only for three months and then require them (should they want to stay longer) to show they are working (employed or self-employed), a registered student or have sufficient resources (pension, savings) to support themselves and comprehensive sickness insurance eg a valid European health insurance card enabling the NHS to claim back the cost of treatment or have private health insurance. The UK is one of the few governments that has not implemented this.
For six years, Theresa May was in charge of the Home Office responsible for immigration, yet did nothing to adopt these conditions. One wonders why not and why immigration was allowed to dominate the referendum and is still being paraded as a big problem. Yet another failure of our own government and the Home Office under Theresa May is being blamed on the EU. The remedy was always in the UK’s hands.