We are being reminded that members of the EU have to obey the four freedoms, the freedom of movement of capital, people, goods and service provision.
These should come as no surprise to us, as they were in the original Treaty of Rome. They are not some new addition from more recent federalising treaties. These later treaties have added a common foreign and defence policy, economic and monetary union, common citizenship and criminal justice integration amongst others. These features have been opposed by Conservatives, voting against Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon. The UK has an opt out from the Euro and is not committed to the criminal justice and defence unions. The four freedoms were effectively approved by the British people in the referendum of 1975, when people ignored voices like mine pointing out the full implications of these radical changes to our constitution.
The reasons we need another referendum include the fact that many voters today were not old enough to vote or were not born in 1975, and the fact that most senior politicians in 1975 assured UK voters that they were just voting for a trade agreement or common market. They could point to the fact that in those days the UK still had a veto over any new proposal. Things have changed a lot since then. Many voters in 1975 failed to read the Treaty of Rome so they did not understand the free movement provisions. They understand them now, thanks to events.
One of the reasons it was possible for the Labour government in 1975 and other leaders to say it was no more than a common market was the inability of the European Community then to enforce many of the things that were in the original Rome Treaty. The Treaty dealt with balance of payments imbalances and said “recognising that the removal of existing obstacles calls for concerted action in order to guarantee steady expansion, balanced trade and fair competition”. Instead large trade imbalances persisted and the EEC took no action to help the UK, a large deficit country.
The Treaty said it would reduce “the differences existing between various regions and backwardness of the less favoured regions”. Instead the gap between the successful and richer parts of the EEC and the rest in many cases grew bigger.
The Treaty began with the aim of laying “the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. It said it would abolish “the obstacles to the free movement of persons, services, and capital” and would eliminate customs duties and quantitative restrictions on the movement of goods.
Today the free movement of people needs limiting. The UK wishes to control its own benefits system.There should be no automatic right for new arrivals to qualify for the range of out of work or in work benefits that UK citizens enjoy. The UK wishes to control its own criminal justice system, and be able to send back to their own countries criminals who have broken our laws. The UK also wishes to limit numbers seeking lower paid work in our country, all the time there are UK citizens without jobs who might be better off from such work.
It is no good the rest of the EU saying these changes cannot be made because of the underlying principle. There are several underlying principles of the modern EU which the UK does not accept, including the all important monetary union. If they wish us to stay in they need to change the arrangements so we can control our own borders.