Letter: On Schengen and the euro, UK could still get opt-outs

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Just as opinion polls show support for Britain rejoining the EU passing the 60 per cent mark, Robert Shrimsley pours cold water on the idea, claiming that “rejoining would mean a commitment to abolish the pound and give up independent immigration controls” (Opinion, August 31).

Really? The EU now has seven member states which have not joined the euro, six of which show no intention of joining. The EU is also embarking on a process of accepting eight new members, including Ukraine, which has kindled a recognition that a two-tier Europe — with some in the euro, some not — is inevitable.

When it comes to negotiations, it should be possible to agree the same opt-out, with a right to join later, that we previously had as a member. The same applies to Schengen, all the more so as Ireland, with which we share a common travel area, is also not a Schengen member. As to immigration, we would do well to remember that most migration to Britain was and is from outside the EU — entirely a matter for national, not EU, regulation.

We can be as open or as restrictive as we choose. EU citizens coming to the UK, always a minority, were exercising a reciprocal right of free movement which worked both ways, and was subject to conditions (of finding work or being self-sufficient) that successive British governments never enforced, but could if they chose.

It is in the EU’s interest too that Britain rejoins the main framework for co-operation among our highly interdependent neighbouring countries. They too were hurt by Brexit, albeit not as much as Britain. They will not be going out of their way to make this more difficult. Their main worry would be to avoid the whole Brexit saga being repeated in the future. If the current trend in public opinion continues (and even more if it is amplified by our future leaders), they will be reassured that that is unlikely.

Richard Corbett
Former Labour party leader in the European parliament
Shipley, West Yorkshire, UK

Read More: Letter: On Schengen and the euro, UK could still get opt-outs

2023-09-04 01:00:47

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