The (de-) politicization of EU freedom of movement: political parties, opportunities, and policy framing in Germany and the UK

  • Christof Roos
Original Article


Freedom of movement (FOM) of EU citizens within the European Union (EU) has become a salient issue in some member states. In Germany and the UK, EU FOM prompted governments to tighten the residency and benefits prerequisites for EU migrants. Interestingly, these policy reforms prevented EU FOM from becoming a major political concern in Germany but not in the UK. Understanding the causes of this divergence can cast light on the driving factors behind EU de-politicization. Analysis of the UK case shows that several key factors, including rightist party ideology, political opportunity, and policy framing strategies, fuelled the country’s critical debate over its EU membership. By contrast, Germany’s successful de-politicization of the EU FOM issue can largely be explained by the absence of Euroscepticism in the government, limited political opportunities for mobilization, and the specific framing strategies used by the politicians who reformed EU FOM at the domestic level. Taking into account the existing scholarly work on politicization, this article provides an in-depth qualitative case study of the driving factors behind reactions to EU FOM in the UK and Germany, and discusses how to prevent the politicization of EU policy to turn into criticism of the EU polity level.


EU freedom of movement Politicization Political parties Opportunity structures Framing 



I would like to thank Ilke Adam, László Andor, Adrian Favell, Randoll Hansen, Regine Paul, Florian Trauner, and the two other anonymous reviewers for useful comments on earlier versions of the article. Research support from IES at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and editorial assistance of Laura Cunniff at Europa-Universität Flensburg is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Europa-Universität FlensburgFlensburgGermany

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