Free movement: all bets are off for Brexit

The EU Referendum was a gamble – but nowhere near as much as Brexit will be.

It’s fair to say no-one has any real idea what will happen when Britain formally begins the process of leaving the EU – or “Brexit.”  The only thing that has become abundantly clear is that those who claimed “certainty” during the referendum campaigns were either woefully optimistic or desperately pessimistic.  Mostly they were simply constructing truths that had no real merit. Yes: lying.

Fears as yet unfounded; promises impossible to substantiate.

There is only one thing almost guaranteed by Brexit is: change will happen.  Thinking about it logically, it would be naïve, if not purely arrogant for Britain to assume it holds all the cards and can march slap-dash across EU membership.  The UK can’t throw out its responsibilities towards the Union at the same time as keeping hold of all the rights and privileges that membership affords to…members.  One of those facets is freedom of movement.  In all the propaganda that surrounded the campaign – including the more extreme xenophobic opinions  – it was clear that the “exit” side wanted more freedom and autonomy away from Europe.

The problem is that such opinions forgot to take into account that the UK would still have to follow the rules of the EU whenever it wanted to step on EU soil in the future.  After all, you don’t let a footballer walk away from a match but still rule the game, do you? They can’t sit on the bench and expect to be able to order moves of the goalposts.

“…a driving holiday down to Portugal, via Spain, might require significantly more paperwork and preparation than before.”

The idea of UK travellers having to get a visa to move across the EU never entered the minds of most Brexit voters. Even less likely is the idea that they would have considered having a visa refused and needing to pay on each application.  British Citizens have enjoyed a certain level of  assumed ‘entitlement’ that has suddenly come under threat. Since the main narrative behind the “Brexit” campaign was that  of gaining more control over our borders, we must recognise that the country on the other side of that border will have equal control.

We’re British: are we really ready for change?

Immigration and free movement will change in some way when the full “exit” from the EU happens.  That means the previously clear distinction between EU and non-EU travel might not be so clear when it comes to people coming into the UK.  It might be that movement in and out of countries like the US and other “non-EU” or “non-EEA” countries may change very little – there’s almost no reason for it to change at all. However, a quick hop over the channel to France in a camper-van on a driving holiday down to Portugal, via Spain, might require significantly more paperwork and preparation than before.

And cost.

Equally, when it comes to work and study abroad, organising school trips, weddings, and so on, could all be changing. The shortest collective answer to the many questions people are only just beginning to ask about their migration and holidaying opportunities out of the UK is: “we don’t know.”

The UK cannot expect to be so closed whilst also expecting the EU to remain so open in return.  Can it?  It might seem outlandish to suggest such a situation at this stage…but in the “no-man’s land” of immigration certainty that we currently reside, anything is possible.

The UK has never held all the cards, and in the EU referendum it decided to fold.

So, at this stage, all bets are off.

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