What you might need to know

This video tells you a little more about freedom of movement of people across the European Union. There are several mechanisms in place but this freedom of movement of people is really at the heart of the Single Market which the European Union has created. The UK really didn’t like having people moving freely into their country so it was very much one of the decisive factors in voting Leave.

  • The Single Market allows the freedom of movement of people for work or study purposes like under the Erasmus agreement where students can go for a semester or a year to study in any other EU university. You can also go on holiday or retire anywhere within the EU. It means you don’t have to get a visa to study, work or reside in another EU country.
  • There is also equivalence of qualifications across the EU which works more or less well but is still easier than if you are from a non-EU country.
  • There is also another mechanism that has facilitated travelling across many countries of the EU. It is called the Schengen Area. It is made up of 22 EU member states and 4 non EU countries like Switzerland. These countries have got rid of border control at their borders. So you can travel from Seville in the south of Spain to the Hague in the Netherlands without ever being stopped for passport control.
  • However if there is a threat to national security, Schengen countries can temporarily reinstate border controls. It was the case at the time of the Paris terrorist attacks.
  • The Republic of Ireland and the UK are not part of Schengen. They have another agreement called the Common Travel Agreement and dates back to 1920s. Brexit shouldn’t affect it.
  • When talking about borders in the Republic of Ireland, we have to mention Brexit and the issue of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • Since the Good Friday Agreement which sealed the peace in Northern Ireland, we’ve had no physical infrastructure at the border between NI and Ireland. This was fine because both countries were part of the EU club.
  • When the UK leaves the EU, the 499 kilometer border will be the only land border between the UK and the EU.
  • There will be need for border checks because different customs rules, regulations and standards will apply in Northern Ireland and the Republic. So border checks will be necessary.
  • Neither the UK nor the EU or Ireland want a hard border back but they haven’t found a solution.
  • They’ve agreed on a backstop which guarantees an invisible border in case no other solution is found. This would only be used as a last resort if the EU and the UK couldn’t reach an overarching free trade deal.