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Mythbust

Free movement doesn’t mean we don’t control our borders

by Luke Lythgoe | 07.04.2016

Myth: Free movement means we’ve lost control of our borders

InFact: We’re not in the border-free Schengen Area and so haven’t lost control of borders. That hasn’t stopped the Leave camp muddling the issues brilliantly.

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Eurosceptics would have people believe that because EU membership requires free movement of people that means the UK no longer has control of its borders. They’ve done a brilliant job muddling the issues and creating a toxic brew that is frightening the British people. This makes concerns such as terrorism and the refugee crisis feel even more threatening. But the two issues are different.

Anyone who wants to enter the UK still needs to present a passport for security checks by a UK Border Force official. What’s more, UK authorities can refuse entry to any EU citizen on public policy, public health or public security grounds.

Our situation is different from the Schengen Area, where internal border checks between countries have largely been abolished. The UK has an opt out from the Schengen Area and will never be obliged to join. So we don’t need to reclaim control of our borders.

One thing that has helped muddle the issue is the migration crisis focussed on Syria, which has led to much talk of Europe’s “leaky borders”. But, in fact, these are the Schengen Area’s leaky borders. The UK’s control of its own borders means that, despite more than one million migrants entering Schengen in 2015, few have reached the UK. The camps in Calais are testament to how difficult it is for irregular non-EU migrants to enter Britain.

Eurosceptics also blame open borders for recent terrorist atrocities. But any jihadi attempting to enter the UK will be checked. Whether they will be apprehended is down to British border officials, not the EU. That would be true if we quit the EU too. Key to catching potential terrorists at the border is intelligence, and the UK will find it easier to cooperate on EU-wide counter-intelligence by remaining in the EU.

The Brexiteers stir another myth into their toxic brew: the claim that largely muslim Turkey will join the EU in 2020. But this is not true. Turkey won’t join the EU for a long time – if at all.

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Free movement of people is a different issue entirely from border-free travel inside Schengen and, by extension, Schengen’s leaky external borders. It is a fundamental principle of the EU, which does apply to Britain. But it doesn’t remove border checks. It allows EU nationals to work without a permit, reside, look for a job and enjoy equal treatment to other citizens in another EU member state. These are not refugees fleeing civil war in Syria or economic migrants from outside Europe.

People can argue whether the UK should give Poles, Italians and Swedes rights to work and live in Britain. InFacts argues that on balance the economic argument is in Britain’s favour. It’s also a two-way street, with many Brits enjoying the same rights elsewhere in the EU.

This article was updated on 12 June and is an adaptation of a piece that previously appeared on InFacts.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

8 Responses to “Free movement doesn’t mean we don’t control our borders”

  • Once Germany has granted citizenship to the thousands of migrants they have allowed in will they be free to travel to the UK?

    • There it is again, the mingling of different issues. EU nationals are here legally. Illegal immigrants are not. Undesirable EU nationals can be denied entry, we just need to get better at checking their credentials. And as to Germany granting foreigners citizenship, German citizenship is one of the most difficult to obtain. I wish people would check their facts, and then we could have a proper debate. In fact there a good reasons to vote leave.

      • Quality… Free movement means any number of people can come here and we can’t turn them away unless there is a legitimate reason… Well that worked out well for us!

        I find it disturbing for remain voters to call leave voters xenophobic or racist for wanting controlled migration, have people lost the plot. I find it also disturbing that remain voters feel it’s okay to have Brit on Brit racism when they claim British people don’t want the jobs migrants are doing… That’s racism!

        It’s a numbers game, those who work pay tax, if the migrant workers were not here then employers would have no choice but to use domestic workers. Young people in education would be able to get casual jobs to support themselves through higher education. Free movement has created extra pressure on the NHS and schools, it’s a simple numbers game, take that growth out and we have to build less quickly and invest in quality in those areas. My vote was economic!

        So you understand, I pay a large amount in the higher tax bracket… I went to a multicultural school which was great… I grew up in council houses until I was 16 and have worked hard to further myself and family. If the EU was what is was when Mrs Beck taught me at 12 years old in 1996 then I would have voted to remain. I consider myself young and young voter, those who voted us in were young once and they were tricked, if we allow it then they will continue with their tricks!!!

  • This is not true. We have thousands of illegal immigrants hiding in the UK now and when the Turks get passports thousands of Turkish Muslim men will be free to enter Britain with no checks.Guaranteed there will be a vast number of criminals coming here taking our benefits. Inciidentally,we canmot deport any of them….so stop lying.

    • Given that you are making guarantees (although you’ve not actually stated what the guarantee is?), I take it that your research into this area has been extensive? So is there a significant criminal element in Turkey’s general population? Can you back that up with stats please? Also, if you could get a print out from your crystal ball where you are getting your vision of the future benefits losses to this wave of Turkish criminal blokes coming over, that would be really helpful.
      FYI, all these Turks already have access to passports, but they’re not members of the EU. If you actually read something, then you would see that there are 35 chapters of acquis (EU rules) that a prospect member state need to satisfy before they can join… Tell me, as you seem so well informed, how may of these rules do Turkey currently satisfy? Oh, and even if Turkey satisfy all acquis, then the decision on their ascension still needs to be unanimous among the other member states, which means that if the impact to the UK or any other state would be disproportionate, then they can vote no.

  • “Britain cannot automatically deport Abu Hamza’s daughter-in-law despite her criminality because of her son’s EU citizenship, the European Court of Justice [ECJ] has said in a judgment.

    The comments are a blow to the Home Office which argued that the government should always be able to order people to leave the country in such circumstances. ”

    from The Daily Telegraph 13 September 2016