Far right English nationalists like Nigel Farage and the more mainstream right of centre Brexiters have been telling us for years that one of the main benefits of leaving the EU will be the end of free movement. In fact, Theresa May told us that ending free movement was her “top priority”. People who voted leave will therefore be delighted that for the first three years after we have pulled up the drawbridge to Europe, it will only cost us €7 to purchase a three year visa exemption if we want to travel to EU countries.
That’s the news we have had confirmed today by the EU who have, quite properly, declared we are the ‘third country’ we demanded to be when we left the EU. We demanded that free movement be ended, they’ve agreed to it and now we will need to pay for the privilege of visiting Europe.
I haven’t read the small print yet so it is not clear whether literally everyone will be able to apply for the exemption. We don’t know if having a criminal record will be an obstacle, we don’t know how much paperwork will need to be completed before we enjoy that fortnight in Benalmadina and we don’t know whether any conditions will be attached to the exemption. However, we can be sure that without the relevant documents, we will not get as far as the departure lounge when we go on holiday.
If the new visa exemption system is required just for visiting EU countries, I wonder what new rules will be in place for those who want to work, study or retire elsewhere in Europe? As things stand now, we can work, study and retire wherever we want. The end of free movement, which we demanded, is going to if not put the kibosh on these things, it will certainly make them more complicated.
I suppose the one thing that’s positive is that we now have some certainty. Hard Brexiters always told us that the end of freedom of movement will prevent Europeans coming to work in our country and those, like Nigel Farage, always made a point of illustrating these migrant workers had dark skin. Well, the end of free movement will certainly stop those European workers coming here regardless of their skin pigmentation. I don’t remember there being a great deal of emphasis of us losing our freedom of movement too, except from those of us who always warned against this and were accused of scaremongering. We weren’t scaremongering; merely explaining what the end of free movement would look like and now we know.