David Cameron is likely to commit an error of historic proportions removing Britain from the European Union and alienating the long-term allies: this is the warning issued today by José Manuel Barroso. In a speech at Chatham House in London regarding the EU President warned the British Prime Minister that a firmer position of his Government towards immigration from the EU leads to isolation of London and makes it more difficult to get the reforms that Cameron claims to want. It is an illusion to think that there can be no dialogue if you bring into question the very principles of the Union and the Member States are offended, Barroso said.
In recent days, the Conservative Party has hinted at the possible introduction of limits on immigration from the EU, to meet the public and counter the rise of Ukip, the party which calls for an immediate exit from the EU, in view of the elections in May 2015. Cameron so far deployed in favor of Great Britain in the EU, has changed his tune stating that “He will make one last attempt” to negotiate with Brussels and hinting that if the negotiations fail he could join the Euro-sceptics who ask for an exit from the Union.
Barroso said today that there are no British proposals on the table on possible EU limits on immigration but only “ideas and rumors circulating”, but warned that “an arbitrary limit is contrary to the treaties that guarantee the free movement of people and therefore it is not acceptable.” The EU President said that at least 1.4 million British citizens living in Europe, 700 thousand of which are in Spain, and “are welcome”, hence any limit to the freedom of their movement would also be damage to the British.
In Europe there is a great willingness to listen to British concerns and to make concessions on issues such as unemployment benefits to immigrants from the EU, but some requests are “unacceptable” and the free movement of persons is “insurmountable”, said Barroso.
The former Portuguese Prime Minister has likened the referendum that Cameron has promised on the exit from the EU to the last month referendum in Scotland, both a leap in the dark irreversible. “It’s very easy to say no”, said Barroso. It is difficult to say how.” The leader of Ukip and the euro-sceptics in the Conservative Party should explain how Britain once outside the EU can maintain its status globally and convince banks, businesses and foreign investment to remain.
The truth is that the UK outside of the EU risks becoming “irrelevant”.
Reflecting on his ten years at the helm of the EU, the outgoing president said that in a period of great “difficulty” Europe has demonstrated its strength its resistance and its willingness to change, but there is still much to do. The important thing is that Europe today is stronger than twenty or ten years ago, and has more weight internationally”.
After the speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a Downing Street spokesman dismissed the warning of the EU president and stated that “Barroso should know that the status quo is unacceptable to London.”