Letter to the Financial Times: The EU free movement principle can be changed
As published 31 January 2014
Sir, You quoted the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as saying that the free movement of EU citizens "could not be changed or renegotiated" (FT, 19 January).
In fact, the free movement idea has been changed repeatedly over the past sixty years. In 1951, the European Economic Community's precursor, the European Coal and Steel Community, enabled workers in those industries to move countries. Six years later, the Treaty of Rome abolished discrimination between workers from different EEC member states. Then in 1968, the EEC allowed spouses and children to accompany workers. In 1971, EEC migrant workers were granted the right to the same benefits as nationals of the host country.
The most fundamental change came in 1992, when the Treaty of Maastricht created the idea of "European Union citizenship" and provided that "every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States." Since then, EU directives have continued to break down restrictions.
Today there is widespread demand, not just in the UK, for free movement to be limited to those who work or create jobs, obey the law, and are not a call on benefits to which they have not contributed.
Clearly, the free movement principle allows great scope for change, which until now, regrettably has always been in one direction.
Geoffrey Van Orden
Conservative MEP for the East of England
88 Rectory Lane