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HomeNewsCresta Norris: Psychologically, free movement is hard to deny

Cresta Norris: Psychologically, free movement is hard to deny


Now that Amber Rudd is in charge of the Home Office how much time will she get to spend in her seaside constituency of Hastings and Rye?  If she had binoculars to focus on the small coves and cliff-top paths she could see if the fisherman and small boats are carrying more than ‘brandy for the parson and baccy for the clerk’.  On a clear day you can see France from Hastings’s newly refurbished pier; since 1066 there has been free movement of people from France to the UK along the South Coast.

An Australian points system for immigration sounds sensible, but ‘free movement’ is not just about numbers.  It is a belief in a fundamental principle.  In the negotiations with the EU, David Davis will need to tackle the dream as well as dealing with the numbers. It won’t be easy.

Psychotherapeutically, free movement is a goal in itself; a basic human value. Free movement is not about work or consumption but an expression of expansion of space for the individual. It is a core difference between man and animal – animals don’t exhibit a need for more space, they want to explore, but they don’t show a need for space as humans do.

The field of speculative psychology suggests that humans want free movement even though they don’t know what they plan to do with it.  You buy a car to have free movement – speculative  psychology would describe  the car’s use is ‘indeterminate’ in that you may not know  where you are going to be driving, but you want the freedom to be able to drive there.  A smart phone is another example of free movement; it offers thousands of opportunities and different channels, which everyone wants even though they do not use them.  Perhaps the best example is education.  Parents will pay for their children’s education because they want their child to have the best, even though they have no idea how the child will use the education in the future.  Nothing can be more ‘indeterminate’ than the lives our children will lead.

So, when David Davis opens negotiations saying he will curtail ‘free movement’, he needs to understand that to the Europeans it will feel like he is taking their car or smart phone or childrens’ future.

The reason the Remainers are so upset about leaving the EU is the removal of the opportunity, the death of a dream. They want to hold onto the fantasy of a little house in Tuscany for their retirement, even though in real life they were going to move to the south coast and join Amber in Hastings.

David Davis needs to spend time in what psychotherapists call defensive planning. He needs to soothe the Remainers by reassuring them that they can still move freely around Europe. More importantly, he must show the Europeans that he understands their belief in free movement by offering flexibility in the future, while at the same time reducing it via a points system in the present. Trade negotiations will be easy compared to upsetting a fundamental principle.


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Cresta Norris
Cresta Norris
Cresta Norris is a communications consultant and author of

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