Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, slammed Britain’s plans to limit freedom of movement within the European Union in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais.
On a trip to Madrid ahead of a meeting on energy policies between France, Portugal and Spain, the former prime minister of Luxembourg called for southern European countries to stand firm against Britain’s proposals to change EU migration rules.
Here is what Juncker said (emphasis added):
“My experience tells me that revolutions are never announced: breaking the status quo succeeds only if it comes as a surprise. I want to think about the proposals from the UK. They have their red lines and I have my own: free movement of people is non-negotiable. But at the same time I am surprised that southern European countries, such as Spain, or those in the east, with a big background of emigration, aren’t reacting more firmly.”
He then strongly defended the principle of free movement of people, saying that: “If today free movement is under attack, in two years’ time there will be attacks against other freedoms.”
Britain has tried to introduce quotas on net immigration, but attempts to limit the number of people coming into the country have met with little success as it conflicts with one of the founding principles of the EU — the free movement of persons. At present citizens from any of the EU’s 26 member countries can freely migrate to the UK, with 162,000 people choosing to do so in the year to September 2014.
David Cameron, the British prime minister, has pledged to hold a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU if his Conservative Party wins at the General Elections in May.
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