David Cameron’s pledge to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership has always had an undercurrent of disingenuity. This became a raging torrent when he announced during his speech at the Conservative Party Conference: “Britain, I know you want this sorted so I will go to Brussels, I will not take no for an answer and when it comes to free movement – I will get what Britain needs.”
The cornerstones of the single market, enshrined in the EC Treaty, are the “four freedoms” – the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. David Cameron is well aware that these are, and will remain, absolutely non-negotiable.
It would be nice to say ‘no’ to the EU and ‘yes’ to free trade with Europe in a relationship akin to being friendly with your neighbours, but Ukip is the only political party offering that scenario. The nightmare scenario a lot of people are understandably worried about is the one in which the neighbours turn up at the door unannounced, clutching pyjamas and toothbrushes, asking what time dinner is.
A society that isn’t integrated with a set of common values to glue it together is liable to disintegrate. And if we want to avoid disappearing into a kind of pan-European multicultural soup controlled by Germany, we have to accept that free movement of people is not the panacea that the architects of the EU claim it is.