Open Letter to Angela Merkel - A Plea to Consider Reforms to Freedom of Movement

29/06/2016 13:10 | Updated 29 June 2016

Dear Dr Merkel,

I write to you as a British citizen, currently living in Germany. I am absolutely devastated by the recent EU referendum result, as are many other British people I know living here in Germany and back in the UK.

Having now realised this is not just a bad dream, I am left trying to make sense of why 52% of people who cast a vote, voted to leave the EU.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that despite warnings about the economic repercussions of a Brexit, it was people's concerns about high levels of immigration that were the main factor in how people voted.

I know you have said repeatedly that there will be no negotiations until the UK formally begins the process of leaving the EU. In this letter however I would like to request that you please consider making some reforms in relation to the principle of freedom of movement, in order that the government can either justify holding a second referendum or are legitimately able to overrule the result of the original referendum.

Personally I have always believed in the concept of freedom of movement to live and work throughout the EU. It is something that I have benefitted from myself and one of the reasons I want to stay in the EU is so that my children can also benefit from this amazing opportunity in the future. What a gift it is. It has also brought massive benefits to the UK.

However it seems that a large proportion of the British population believe that the UK is buckling under the weight of uncontrolled immigration. I strongly believe that it is crucial that politicians listen to their people and try to understand the motivations behind their voting decisions.

In the week before the referendum, the organisation 'Migration Watch' issued a report saying that they predicted that if we stayed within the EU the British population would increase by 500,000 each year for the next 20 years. This they argued is the equivalent to adding a city the size of Liverpool every year. Whether these predictions turn out to be accurate or not, I believe it is because of figures like these that people were scared into voting to leave the EU.

We have a vibrant and diverse culture in the UK and I do not believe that the UK is an inherently racist country. On the contrary, I believe we are generally extremely tolerant and open-minded.

But when there are very high levels of immigration in a relatively short time, it unsettles people. Services and infrastructure are not able to keep up. Older generations feel threatened. Communities do not integrate. It exacerbates an already serious housing crisis which has left young people crippled by high rents and hopeless about ever getting onto the property ladder. People also worry about wages being driven down.

I care greatly about the future of the EU, whether or not we remain a part of it (which I desperately hope we do somehow). I think its success is critical to a stable and more peaceful world. I also think its chances of survival are greatly enhanced by the UK remaining a dependable and committed member.

Please therefore consider granting some reforms regarding the free movement of people from within the EU to the UK in order that it is possible to justify the need for a second referendum. I have no specific policy suggestions as to what these reforms would be. I am not a politician, I am just a voice reflecting what I believe is the biggest reason why 52% of people voted to leave the EU. Whatever concessions might be made, the UK should obviously pay for this privilege

This is not blackmail. It is a plea. No one really expected that we would ever be in this situation, but it appears that a certain sector of the British population were underestimated in terms of their anxieties about uncontrolled immigration.

For all sorts of reasons, these are clearly very testing times for the EU. But I believe that if the EU is able to successfully respond to this crisis, and negotiate a smooth path out of it, it will only serve to make it a stronger institution in the long run. It would show the world that it is able to respond flexibly to 21st century issues and can be creative in its efforts to find solutions.

Be patient with us. I know that the UK hasn't always been the easiest of partners to have on board. There are accusations of 'cherry picking' and wanting EU 'a la carte'- always wanting our say about how things are done, but then being reluctant to fulfill our commitments. I can see why some may be exasperated and relieved to see us finally supposedly making up our minds and leaving the EU.

I can also understand why it might be particularly difficult for Germany to support any special treatment for the UK regarding to immigration when Germany has so many challenges in this area of its own. Living in Germany over the last year I am very well aware of that.

But I strongly believe that if we are able to find a way of remaining within the EU, you will have a much more willing partner in the UK, especially when we have come so close to possibly losing something that it turns out is rather precious to us after all. As they say, you often don't realise what you had until it is gone. Please don't let this be the case for the UK.

Yours sincerely

Joanna Cates