Across the EU the free movement of people is considered to be a fundamental and non-negotiable cornerstone. Up to the early 1990s it was only the free movement of workers that was allowed, but the treaty definition was then expanded to include non-working people.
But for disabled people there have always been additional barriers to free movement within the EU. And politicians are now talking about increasing those barriers still further.
Following the EU membership referendum in the UK there is now a debate between a hard Brexit and a soft Brexit. The idea of a soft Brexit is to keep some kind of affiliate relationship with the EU, like Norway or Switzerland.
But currently in the UK both the Conservative and Labour parties are saying that immigration from other EU countries must be controlled, which is a non-starter for the rest of the EU because free movement is a cornerstone.
So now the UK politicians wanting a soft Exit are saying – “OK, we might keep free movement, but if someone moves to a different country we should all agree that their welfare benefits cannot be paid in the new country for the first x number of years.”
And clearly this new barrier would impact on disabled people the hardest.
Just after the UK general election I was writing (link below) about the forthcoming EU referendum and its possible impacts on disabled people across Europe.
Unfortunately, recent press reports on soft Brexit proposals suggest that this discussion is still relevant.
And as an EU supporter it pains me to say this – the reality for disabled people across the 27 EU member states could be that a soft Brexit might be worse for everyone’s free movement than a hard Brexit, because of the compromises now being suggested by the UK on everyone’s transferable welfare rights.