No 10 confirms free movement will end but don’t know what happens next
Free movement ends in March 2019. But what will the new immigration rules be? The government has no idea.
A spokesperson for the prime minister has today confirmed that free movement will end (for EU citizens coming to the UK and Brits going to the EU) when we leave the bloc in March 2019. This follows reports at the weekend of a disagreement between government ministers over the shape of a transitional deal – particularly with regard to the continuation of free movement post-Brexit. The Guardian reports the spokesperson also said that as well as publishing proposals on citizens’ rights, the Home secretary Amber Rudd published details on a new registration system for EU citizens arriving after March 2019. The spokesperson further added that “other elements of the post-Brexit immigration system will be brought forward in due course”.
This is all correct. Indeed, the Home secretary outlined the government’s plans for a new post-Brexit immigration system, which would be implemented in three phases. You can read about it in our previous article.
The entire content of Rudd’s plans is also neatly summarised in this tweet by Twitter user @sobanoodle:
The three steps being:
1. Secure citizens’ rights (unclear what this means).
2. Wait a bit to decide on new plan.
3. Implement new plan.
— Ephraim Gadsby (@sobanoodle) 27 July 2017
The government has sought, more recently, to reassure business that there will be no “cliff edge” when the UK leaves the bloc. And the chancellor Philip Hammond said last week that arrangements the day after the UK’s withdrawal would stay “very similar to how they were the day before we left the European Union”. This led to many reports the government was moving towards a transitional deal that would see the UK continue to have access to the single market and customs union. It also seemed the UK would be willing to accept free movement during the transition to get single market access.
But the government’s position seems more like a fudge on free movement: EU citizens will continue to be welcome during the transitional phase but they will need to register with the relevant authority. As we wrote in our earlier article, however, what’s missing from this is what happens to those EU citizens when the transition period ends?
This isn’t just going to be a problem in negotiating single market access as part of a transitional phase, it’s also a huge problem in attracting EU citizens to come to the UK and work here.