Freedom of Movement in EU

The freedom of movement of workers within the Community and the freedom of establishment of nationals of one member state within the territory of another are, as we are frequently reminded, fundamental principles established by the then EEC in 1957 and maintained by the European Union today.

Currently they are increasingly questioned by the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party. To me that means that is has become time to go back and ask why these principles were established.

There are two key reasons. One is the question of individual liberty. Governments should not dictate to citizens where they can go and where they can live and work. The benefit of that hardly needs emphasising to UK members of British Conservatives in Paris; we take advantage of it either just to live or to both live and work here. Many French citizens do the same in Great Britain.

The second is that this liberty is an economic benefit, to individuals and to the economy of Europe as a whole. It permits workers, particularly the most motivated and the most valuable among them, to go where the contribution that they make is most valued and most appreciated. That maximises the economic benefit that they make to Europe as a whole. Many of the French who work in the UK are a good example of this. Their economic contribution is more appreciated in our country because our lower level of bureaucracy enables it to flourish and bear fruit whereas in France it could be stifled by control and regulation. That benefits the French concerned, the UK in general and in time it may benefit France itself if it eventually forces the Government here to reduce their regulatory controls.

What I do not understand is how any Conservative can oppose these principles of individual liberty and the prevention of government imposed rules leading to sub-economic decisions. Both are fundamental to the Conservative Party. In the 1960s and 70s, leaders of the Conservative Party such as Macmillan and Heath understood that. These principles need re-asserting now so that our political leaders can learn to understand them again.

Robin Baker
BCiP Member