European Union and Commonwealth free movement: a historical-comparative perspective

Tendayi Bloom, Katherine Tonkiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Between 1948 and 1962, approximately 600 million Commonwealth citizens had the right to enter the UK. This number decreased throughout the 1960s and 1970s, as a series of Acts of Parliament altered the rights and definitions of Commonwealth citizens. To date, the European Union has extended the right to over 500 million citizens and residents of member-states to enter the UK. This new trend has been met with perceptions of threat to national cultural and economic resources. Reactions to Commonwealth immigration were similarly negative. This paper examines parallels between EU immigration today and Commonwealth immigration of the past. It argues that the fears expressed, both in the literature of the 1960s and 1970s and in contemporary society, reflect a fear of persons who are seen as ‘other’ but who must, by law, be defined as fellow-citizens and afforded the attendant rights. We argue that theorists of free and freer movement must acknowledge these local concerns in order to strengthen their theory and enable a more liberal treatment of immigration policy in the UK and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1067-1085
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jun 2013


  • Commonwealth
  • European Union
  • free movement
  • nationalism
  • United Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'European Union and Commonwealth free movement: a historical-comparative perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this