Free movement unravels? Even staunch Remainer Alan Johnson admits EU policy is FAILING

Free movement unravels? Even staunch Remainer Alan Johnson admits EU policy is FAILING

The 66-year-old was one of the most passionate advocates for Britain’s European Union membership during the referendum campaign.

While speaking on Question Time on Thursday night the MP for West Hull and Hessle conceded the evolution and growth of the EU had rendered freedom of movement as unworkable.

He argued the growth of the EU from six member states to nearly 30 had made the idea of unlimited migration unfeasible.

Mr Johnson said: “If the rest of the European Union recognised that freedom of movement a la the Treaty of Rome 1958, six member states is a bit different to 28 member states.

“There are issues right across Europe, in France, in the Netherlands, in Germany…

“If the rest of the EU decided at some stage that they would have to rethink free movement – not to change the treaty but to make it clear it is about seeking work.”

Mr Johnson added that while that was the law in Britain it was never enforced and migrants who come to the UK looking for employment are able to stay longer than they are supposed to.

Speaking on the BBC programme he continued: “If there was a change of heart in the rest of the European Union I think it might be a very different picture whether the people of Britain wanted to stay or leave.”

Mr Johnson admitted the announcement back in May that net migration had risen to 333,000 in 2015 was a body blow to the Remain campaign.

Mr Johnson’s comments drew anger from some Remainers on Twitter.

FinnPadraic wrote: “Alan Johnson to the right of Tory Ruth Davidson on migration….”

While @willmcmahon added: “What a trumpist answer from alan johnson.  Mentioning rapists and murderers in the same sentences as migration. A disgrace to labour #qt”

However, ‏@Trongler said: “Labour’s Alan Johnson actually being realistic on immigration on #bbcqt 

Net migration is rightly the concern of most voters.”

Speaking at the time Boris Johnson said the figures showed David Cameron had been “cynical” to promise to lower net migration to below 100,000.

Reliving the announcement Mr Johnson said you could “feel the argument slipping away from Remain”.

The issue of freedom of movement was at the forefront of the Brexit debate this week after Mr Johnson was reported to have told EU diplomats he favoured the policy.

Despite previously criticising freedom of movement and saying it is not right for Europe, the Foreign Secretary was alleged to have told four EU ambassadors he supported the principle of free movement.

One ambassador told Sky News: “[Boris Johnson] told us he was personally in favour of it, but he said that Britain had been more affected by free movement of people than other EU member states.”

Another said: “He did say he was personally in favour of free movement, as it corresponds to his own beliefs. But he said it wasn’t government policy.”

Published at Fri, 02 Dec 2016 14:54:00 +0000