Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
It is a defining feature of English common law that contracts are respected. It is a fixture of modern politics that the contracts of states are not so highly regarded.
British membership of the European Union (EU) is contentious. An October poll by YouGov showed a single point lead for staying in the EU. Two weeks later, 41% of survey respondents supported British secession from the EU, compared to 38% wanting to stay in. If a negotiation succeeded and “British interests were protected”, just over half of Britons would want to remain inside the EU.
Spurred on by popular concerns about immigration, the Prime Minister David Cameron sought an “emergency brake” on migration into the United Kingdom. Mr Cameron said:
Britain, I know you want this sorted so I will go to Brussels, I will not take no for an answer and when it comes to free movement – I will get what Britain needs.
At the nexus of the European Union’s single market lie the four freedoms: free movement of people, goods, services and capital. The freedom of movement is part of the Maastricht Treaty, which Britain signed. There is no present mechanism for pulling an “emergency brake” on migration. This freedom is heavily fortified: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said curbing internal migration was the “point of no return”. Outgoing European Commission President José Manuel Barroso stated:
It seems to me that any kind of arbitrary cap is against a fundamental principle of the treaties, that is freedom of movement, and that I’m sure it will not be accepted.
Moreover, Mr Barroso sought to guarantee such free movement for the citizens of Gilbraltar, who were facing severe delays when entering Spain, at the Prime Minister’s behest. For all the talk of ‘red lines’, other countries have them too.
Instead of taxing citizens directly, the EU is funded indirectly by payments from its member states. Recently, the EU launched a new standard for the accounting of a nation’s gross domestic product, which included items of research and development, as well as some illegal activities. The resulting £65bn increase in Britain’s GDP calculation, coupled with improved economic growth, meant that the British contribution to the EU’s budget surged by £1.7bn (€2.1bn).
This form of funding was agreed in the EU’s treaties, which Britain has signed. In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister sternly opposed this surcharge:
Britain will not be paying €2 billion to anyone on 1 December, and we reject this scale of payment. We will be challenging this in every way possible.
There will always be costs and mandates with EU membership. Cheaper French wine must be weighed against greater competition for British businesses, as both are part of the freedom of goods. The ability for a Brit to migrate to Spain and retire must be weighed against the ability for a young Pole to work in Peterborough, as both are part of the freedom of people. As Britain has signed these treaties, this is part of the deal.