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Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
(PPC) 2024 General Election

The EU admits that it needs Britain more than we need it

The EU admits that it needs Britain more than we need it

Britain Holds the Upper Hand in Negotiations with the EU

The European Union has finally acknowledged its need for Britain is greater than Britain’s need for the EU. This week’s offer from Brussels to reinstate a form of freedom of movement for 18 to 30-year-olds between the UK and EU will undoubtedly be welcomed by those dreaming of a year or two abroad. Young people would no longer require work permits or visas, granting them the freedom to move to whichever EU country they desire.

However, for those with memories stretching back to the gruelling Brexit debate from 2016 onwards – and the condescending lectures from the chief negotiator Michel Barnier – the EU’s proposition comes as a surprise. We were repeatedly told during the Brexit negotiations that it was impossible to “cherry pick” parts of the EU package. Membership in the single market, free movement, hosting financial markets, or participating in various programmes was contingent upon paying substantial budget contributions and accepting the EU’s full rulebook.

Not only that, but the hardcore Remainers insufferably droned on about how the EU held all the cards and would always out-negotiate us. Yet, there is a deafening silence from that quarter now. Less than four years later, the EU is offering arrangements that were deemed completely impossible while we were in the process of leaving. We have already rejoined Horizon, and now a form of freedom of movement could be resurrected as well.

Our response in this case should be a polite “no, thank you”.

The offer tells us two things. Firstly, the EU has realised that it needs us far more than we need it. Brussels has made the first move, offering to restore a version of one of the major features of membership. It undoubtedly hopes to tempt an incoming Labour government into renegotiating the entire deal, and with Starmer’s administration desperate to find ways of kickstarting growth, it may well agree.

We can expect a flurry of ambitious proposals in the months ahead as an election looms, and even more if Labour wins, as it almost inevitably will. The EU needs access to lucrative UK markets, especially in sectors such as autos and agriculture. The EU misses the UK’s substantial budget contributions and the profits from our markets, and it will try to win them back.

Secondly, however, the UK needs to learn how to stand up for its own interests. Sure, it would be great for young people to have the freedom to work and study in an EU country. We all benefit from remaining open to new ideas and experiences.

Yet, there are significant problems with the proposal the EU has made. To begin with, like so many offers from the bureaucrats in Brussels, it is completely one-sided. Anyone aged 18 to 30 from the EU can come here, but at least under the draft proposals published so far, the British can only go to one EU country.

More importantly, however, the UK’s open labour market makes it easy for people to move here, but very few go in the other direction. If we rewind to the heyday of free movement, the traffic was overwhelmingly one-way. The government estimated that three million people had moved to Britain from 2000 onwards, but since no one counted the figures properly, it was hard to know precisely.

As it turned out, officials had got the estimates completely wrong. Under the “settled status” rules that allowed people from the EU to stay in Britain if they were already here, there were over seven million applications, or more than double the number expected, and given that some people decided not to stay, the real total could have been eight or even nine million.

And how many went from the UK to Europe? The UN estimates that there were about 900,000 UK citizens living in the rest of the EU in 2019, many of them retirees on the coasts of Spain or Portugal.

Young Poles, Hungarians and Italians flocked to Britain, assuming that they could make better money here than they could at home, or else to escape suffocating regulations that locked them out of the labour markets.

Likewise, under the Erasmus programme for students, statistics from 2018 show that 32,000 EU nationals were funded to come to the UK, while an estimated 17,000 British students went to study in the rest of the Continent.

Add it all up, and one point is clear. Young British people hardly ever went to work elsewhere in the EU for anything more than a summer job in the sunshine; neither did they study there. They don’t speak the language, and there aren’t any jobs anyway. In effect, the EU dumped its youth unemployment on us, in the same way the Chinese dump cheap phones and cars.

It made sense for them, but it was a rotten deal for the UK. And now they want to do it all over again.

The broader point is that the UK needs to curb its addiction to imported labour. We have made a terrible job of it so far, but at least we have the right in principle to control our own borders. The last thing we need is another wave of immigrants from across the EU.

It would be great to be on better terms with Brussels, and there are parts of the Brexit agreement that could be improved. But the EU has just demonstrated that it needs us more than we need it, and it is willing to negotiate. The UK does not need a return to any form of free movement.

Instead, Britain should leverage its newfound position of strength to extract more favourable terms from the EU. We must protect our labour market and prioritise opportunities for British workers, while also maintaining our ability to attract top talent from around the world on our own terms.

The UK’s departure from the EU has proven to be a boon, freeing us from the bureaucratic shackles of Brussels and allowing us to forge our own path. Rather than succumbing to the EU’s tactics, we should seize this opportunity to negotiate a deal that truly serves Britain’s best interests.

After all, it is the EU that has come knocking, offering concessions that were once deemed unthinkable. This underscores the reality that the balance of power has shifted, and Britain holds the upper hand in these negotiations. We must approach them with a steadfast commitment to protecting our sovereignty and securing a deal that benefits our nation and its people.

In Summary

  • The EU has admitted it needs Britain more than Britain needs the EU by offering to restore some freedom of movement for 18-30 year olds
  • This is a surprise after being told during Brexit negotiations that “cherry picking” parts of EU membership was impossible
  • The UK should politely decline the EU’s offer for several reasons:
  • It is a one-sided offer favoring the EU
  • Very few young Brits actually went to work/study in other EU countries pre-Brexit
  • The UK was effectively taking the EU’s unemployed youth under freedom of movement

• Key takeaways:

  • The EU needs access to UK markets and misses UK contributions more than vice versa
  • The UK must learn to stand up for its own interests in future negotiations
  • Britain should curb its addiction to imported labour
  • The UK does not need to return to any form of free movement with the EU
  • With the EU demonstrating its need for a deal, Britain holds the upper hand
  • Britain should leverage this position of strength to extract more favorable terms, prioritizing British workers while still attracting global talent


The EU has been playing a game of bluff and deceit, which thanks to the media pandering to their mistruths, has caused great divisions in our society. By its very nature, the EU is insidious, autocratic, unelected, unaccountable and now, it is desperately fighting to survive!

Exaggeration? We need only take a look at the continual slide of the EU in to insignificance, which has accelerated significantly since we left. In 1970, in its current size, the EU represented 35% of global trade, (this had already dropped significantly over the last century, the days of Europe being the glorious centre of trade are long gone) but by 2017 it had dropped to just 22% including the UK, by 2022 it had dropped to 16.6% without the UK, by 2023 it had fallen to less than 15% and it is on course slip below 10% of global trade by the end of the decade.

Is this a club that we should be chained at the hip to? Is this an organisation that we should permit to shackle us and prevent us from making our own trade deals and controlling our own destiny? I say not, the EU is facing extinction in its current form and they know it.

We must show no regret for leaving this terrible restrictive institution.

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