In an article in the New Statesman today, the Labour MP and former Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions Rachel Reeves argues that Labour should pursue a policy to end Freedom of Movement.
In the article she argues the same thing many British politicians want, an end to freedom of movement but also access to the single market. Something that the rest of the European Union leaders have made very clear will not be possible.
Britain’s closest allies in the EU, Ireland and Sweden, have both categorically rejected cherry picking. Enda Kenny did so in an interview with Ireland’s Newstalk radio station. “”Let me tell you that around the European Council table, that is an issue that will not be given in on”, he said.
Before the last EU summit in Italy, Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was similarly clear. “You cannot have free movement of goods and services and capital and not people. The Union doesn’t work like that and there will be differences if they are not members.”
These are the United Kingdom’s closest associates, and these countries have often worked together to achieve the same goals, and if Britain has lost support from them, then the country will have a much harder time convincing less friendly EU members.
The Visegrad-group, consisting of Eastern European countries, have explicitly threatened to veto any deal that grants Britain access to the single market without a commitment to preserve freedom of movement.
Some of the arguments from Brexit-supporting politicians appear to argue both that Britain can take an economic hit in the national interest, but that other EU members will be hyper economical and ignore their own national interest. That national interest lies in preserving freedom of movement.
Sweden, for instance, exported 7.4 per cent of its goods to the UK in 2015 to the UK. In monetary terms, the exports were worth £7.6 billion. It is also the go to destination for young people when they want to study abroad. Also, London is the first stop on international expansion for Swedish companies as they outgrow their home market. Swedish companies have 1000 subsidiaries in the UK.
The Swedish government is well aware of this, but has faced no serious push-back for the hardline stance Löfven has expressed. Allowing Britain to erect trade barriers without consequence goes against the Swedish national interests in the European Union. Freedom of movement is of vital importance for the Swedish economy, and it will not be compromised.