The Fight Over Freedom Of Movement Begins!
The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. The unexpected result has led to a collapse in our political system with David Cameron stepping down and Jeremy Corbyn clinging on. The Conservative Party leadership race will decide the fate of freedom of movement. This is now the most important event in our political calanders.
The official Vote Leave campaign should be proud right now. They have done an amazing job and secured Britain’s independence for (hopefully) an eternity. There is talk of a second referendum. Richard Branson certainly advocates one, as well as a petition with almost 4 million signatures. The petition is a shameful rejection of democracy by remain campaigners. Parliament must, and will, respect the wishes of the British people.
The big fight isn’t over respecting the referendum, but whether freedom of movement is a compatible policy when combined with the leave campaigns claim of ‘taking back control’.
Freedom of movement is not taking back control
We’ve already heard some worrying sentiments from those at the head of the official leave campaign. Daniel Hannan in an interview with newsnight suggested that Britain’s new deal ‘means freedom of movement of labour’. Instead of taking control as had been the campaign slogan, Daniel Hannan believes we can have ‘some control’. ‘Vote Leave, take some control’ certainly wouldn’t have been as successful a slogan.
There were always going to be differences over what the outcome of a British exit from the European Union would look like. Freedom of movement shouldn’t be one of them. There seemed genuine agreement throughout the campain that ‘taking back control’ also meant taking back control of Britain’s borders. This has changed, and the potential candidates for leader of the Conservative party are moulding around these new lines.
The likeliest heir to David Cameron is Boris Johnson. He has recently claimed that access to the single market was compatible with an end to freedom of movement. However, this was clarified in response to his weekly column in the Telegraph which confused and angered some senior brexiteers. There have always been questions about his true brexit credentials which may hamper him slightly, especially if a stronger brexiteer stands against him. In comes Dr Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom.
The next Conservative leader will decide the fate of freedom of movement
Both Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom have already rejected freedom of movement. Andrea in a tweet, well received by her supporters. Liam Fox has repeated his opposition to freedom of movement on TV and radio since Thursday.
Free trade with the EU will be in all our interests. But essential we agree free movement no longer applies to UK. Confident we can do this
— Andrea Leadsom MP (@andrealeadsom) June 27, 2016
Boris Johnson has hampered himself by not being clearer on this issue. Right wing Conservative MPs have allied with traditional working class Labour voters over the issue of freedom of movement. The unlikely alliance between the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and John Mann is a great opportunity for a small c conservative party.
As Toby Young explained out in his Spectator article: “A new grouping of manual workers and middle-class intellectuals could sweep all before it”. This alliance, currently enjoyed by UKIP, is a winning formula. With Labour in turmoil and Jeremy Corbyn scrapping to hold onto power and an election looking likely in the next few months, this alliance could have the potential for providing a majority. This majority however will rely on the next leader declaring an end to freedom of movement.
Who will capitalise on this alliance: The Conservatives or UKIP?
The political scene has shifted, the dividing lines changed. The next parliament will feel very different to any we have experienced in the past 40 years. Those MPs on the remain side will aim to keep us as close to the EU as possible while still calling it leaving. Those MPs on the leave side will wish to repatriate as much power from the European Union as possible. Those heavily on the leave side will seek an end to freedom of movement. The choice over whether Conservatives will accept free movement will depend on those soft leave voters who may wish to avoid giving Boris Johnson a mandate.
For UKIP, this is possibly their most influential time. Should the Conservatives elect Theresa May as the ‘anyone-but-Boris’ candidate there will be many, very angry leave MPs. Should the next leader accept a form of freedom of movement, UKIP should stand as the party who will ensure an end to freedom of movement. They will do well amongst Conservative minded leave voters. They will also capture the bulk of Labour leave voters whose primary concern was immigration.
I hope Boris Johnson declares he will end freedom of movement. I hope the Conservative Party will ensure that Britain gets the exit it wants. A clever Conservative party would hold onto this election winning alliance. Should they fail, UKIP will pick this mantle up as Labour descends into irrelevance. By this time next year, Britain could have a Conservative majority to implement a British exit. We could also have a sizable chunk of UKIP MPs, elected on a mandate to ensure an end to freedom of movement. Whatever happens, don’t count UKIP out. They may have won the war, but they still have a few battles left in them.