Britain’s newly installed prime minister Theresa May is making one of the biggest mistakes her predecessor David Cameron made when he tried to negotiate better membership terms for staying the European Union — staying within the Single Market but placing new strict controls on immigration.
On June 23, Britain voted to leave the EU. May has been unequivocal in saying “Brexit means Brexit,” since becoming PM, suggesting that she plans to trigger Article 50, which then gives the nation two years to negotiate its exit.
However, May is delaying triggering Article 50, and critics such as Barclays analysts say this will make a UK recession worse.
Meanwhile, EU officials have also been just as staunch in saying that negotiations will not begin until Article 50 is triggered. But May’s spokesperson told the Financial Times that Britain is looking to enact a “unique” model which looks awfully similar to former prime minister David Cameron’s attempts to stop Britain leaving the EU.
According to the excerpt in the FT, “the UK would seek ‘controls on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe’ but also ‘a positive outcome for those who wish to trade goods and services.'”
In other words, she is looking to retain all the perks of Britain staying within the Single Market. The Single Market, as described by the EU, is as “one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services.” It basically means that one of the biggest perks of being a EU is that you get standardised and favourable taxation rates and conditions.
This also includes the Freedom of Movement Act. The Freedom of Movement Act allows all EU citizens to easily migrate to any other member state.
There have been numerous independent reports over the last year which have warned that if Britain left the EU, severing ties with the Single Market will significantly damage the economy. So it is in the interest of May negotiating for Britain to stay within the Single Market.
But on the flipside, immigration was one of the biggest reasons for Britain voting to leave the EU
History repeating itself
So, May has the almost impossible task of appeasing the majority of the nation that voted for a Brexit — which she has committed to — by angling for a change in immigration laws, while also making sure the country does not shoot itself in the foot by leaving the Single Market.
What makes this worse though is that we have been here before.
Former prime minister David Cameron called for the EU referendum after promising voters that if they voted him and his Conservative party into power in the 2015 general election, then they would get to decide the fate of the nation within the 28-nation bloc.
He explicitly said he was against leaving the EU, and instead would favour a renegotiation of Britain’s current membership within the bloc.
Cameron tried to push for Britain to essentially opt out of the Freedom of Movement Act while still retaining the conditions of its current trading setup within the EU. However, after EU officials said “no,” in no uncertain terms, his proposed deal was deemed as a failure.
So now we are back to square one.