BrexitOur View

Deal or No Deal Brexit? – No more Free Movement?

On 23rd of March, hundreds of thousands of people marched in London, asking for another referendum on the request that any of the Brexit deal should be voted and decided by people.

The petition for revoking article 50 is currently around 6 million signatures, which will be debated in the parliament on 1st of April; however, it has been responded on 26th of March by the government that revoking Article 50 symbolizes the break of promise from UK government to its people.

Brexit implementation has now stuck in a situation that Prime Minister Theresa May has failed three times to let the parliament pass the Brexit deal.

However, the EU, on 21st of March, has agreed on Prime Minister Theresa May’s appeal for extension until 12th of April. Though agreeing with such extension, the EU seems reluctant for lengthy withdrawal development as the EU wishes to put forward further plans without UK meddling in and Brexit taking away time. The UK must make decisions. It is reported that the UK parliament might again have a third round vote on Mrs. May’s deal but rare expectations on the deal being passed. While deal or no-deal, parliament vote or another referendum for British to act, it is not only time-costly on Britain’s side but also the EU’ side. Some argue that a no-deal Brexit on 12th of April seems to be the most possible option Britain may have.

Deal or no-deal, both the UK and the EU has published possible scenarios in 2018: UK policy paper stated to ensure smooth departure from EU on 29th of March, 2019 (this date has been postponed) while The European Commission listed factsheets stating all kinds of activities in life that EU citizens and UK nationals will be faced with. The very first come into effect is freedom of movement, which is one of the basic concepts of single market establishing European Union.


Freedom of movement in concern

Comparing the UK policy paper and the EU factsheets, it is the free movement that becomes the very first change. In both documents, a no-deal scenario is depicted.

The border checks, visa and custom checks – it stated that the UK nationals should bring a passport going through additional checks rather than EU/EEA lanes. The UK nationals’ travelling to EU will be proposed of a visa-free only for short days (90 days out of 180 days) and vice-versa for EU citizens travelling to the UK. Goods, licenses, authorities, personal data anything that involve in the EU free movement are all affected. For example, UK mobile providers may surcharge users roaming in the EU as Brexit symbolizes UK no more bound by EU regulations. Latest news revealed that rise of UK airline tickets is likely to take place in the scenario of no-deal exit.

Right to live, right to work – for those UK nationals in EU member countries and those EU citizens in UK, a settlement scheme is applied respectively in the UK and the EU and both signals no more benefitting from ‘one market, free movement.’


5 million of people affected

Undoubtedly, the lost of freedom of movement would affect not just people’s rights of residence and work but also goods trade and businesses settlement. The cost is not just money but also time. Statistics show that there are 3.7 million EU citizens in the UK and 83% working age EU citizens work in the UK (compared to 76% working age UK nationals).

Besides from these 3.7 million people, there are 1.3 million UK nationals living in the EU, which refers to that 5 million people are affected for freedom of movement. The European integration guards for human’s rights movement but Brexit is detaching itself to this right. For the 5 million people, it is not just a problem of losing this right but a drastic turnover to their residence and work. UK citizenship no longer considered to be EU citizenship, it is a dilemma for those UK nationals in need of free movement residing and working in all EU member countries. Giving up the British citizenship and applying for EU residence, it is a move of abandoning identity for the sake of living and working.

Before Brexit, British people can still uphold its national identity but freely reside in EU, which protected people’s right of identity and entitled rights of movement and residence. Brexit gives rise to the dilemma for the 5 million people between these two human rights: freedom of movement and national identity, both of which are stated in the EU charter as fundamental and common values. Breaking through common values, it diverges the identity development as British being British while the EU without Britain.


Identity – Self and Other

Freedom of movement is supposed to pave the road for consolidating a bloc and maximizes the benefits for the people in this region. Rejecting this benefit is a cost for Brexit on those people based their lives on this freedom, which they may pay more for residence, spend more time on border checks, pay the tariff of importing and exporting from outside of the region. Besides from the perspective of economy, it may also lead to further development of ‘Britishness’ the identity. Taking away freedom of movement, Brexit has officially justified the question of balancing between self (sovereignty) and other (EU).


Brace up for the future

Since Britain has put forward the decision of leaving the EU, it should be prepared for the cost of losing freedom of movement, which currently is estimated to be traffic of border checks, tariffs of trading goods, turmoil of licenses and authorities. Costly at the moment but it may be more in the future. Leaving now may be easy but joining in again is a doubt.



Author: Yung Lin, Researcher at ICRD

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