- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
- The prime minister insists that free movement of people will end in 2019. Theresa May’s spokesman slaps down suggestions from Hammond that current rules could continue after Brexit. Chancellor had insisted that “literally nobody” wants a dramatic drop in immigration. Comments sparked Cabinet row with Liam Fox who Hammond’s allies accused of “living in fantasy land.”
LONDON – The free movement of people from the EU into Britain will not continue during any Brexit transition period, Downing Street has insisted.
The prime minister’s intervention comes amidst a growing Cabinet row over the future of Britain’s immigration system.
The row was sparked after Philip Hammond said on Friday that there should be no “cliff edge” for immigration when Britain leaves the EU in Spring 2019.
His comments left the door open for current immigration rules to remain in place during any transitional period after Brexit, which minister expect to last up to three years.
“At the present time, we have a high level of dependence on foreign workers in the UK,” he told the Today programme.
“Nobody wants us to go over a cliff edge in March 2019 where suddenly our health services are unable to cope, social care is unable to deliver.”
However, the comments triggered a row with Hammond’s Cabinet colleagues.
The International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox told the Sunday Times that such an outcome would “not keep faith” with the referendum result.
He added: “If there have been discussions on that I have not been party to them. I have not been involved in any discussions on that.”
The foreign secretary was also forced to deny claims that he plans to resign over the issue.
Free movement will not continue as it is now
A spokesperson for the prime minister insisted on Monday that free movement will end in Spring 2019.
The spokesperson told a briefing attended by Business Insider that while they would not otherwise speculate on what future immigration rules will look like it was “wrong” to suggest “that free movement will continue as it is now.”
They also denied reports that any transition would follow a Norwegian style arrangement akin to membership of the European Free Trade Area.
“There were reports last week that we were looking for an off-the-shelf model, we are not looking for an off-the-shelf model,” the spokesperson said.
“Precisely what the implementation model will look like is up for negotiation.”
The government’s opponents today accused May’s Cabinet of being in “disarray” over Brexit. “There are more government positions than there are cabinet ministers,” Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake MP said.
“The government is in total disarray. Unless the cabinet can agree a position how can it possibly negotiate Brexit on behalf of Britain with the EU?”