- The free movement of people from the EU will end in Spring 2019, insists immigration minister.
- Business had been lobbying for an extended ‘transition’ period during which the free movement of people would continue.
- Brandon Lewis’s comments mark a hardening of the government’s Brexit policy.
- Government announces report on the benefits of EU immigration won’t come out until autumn 2018.
LONDON — The free movement of people from the EU will end on the date the UK leaves, the Immigration Minister has insisted, in a hardening of the government’s Brexit policy.
The government’s Brexit white paper, published earlier this year, suggested that there would be a “phased process of implementation” for new immigration rules after Brexit, in order to “give businesses and individuals enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements.”
Reports last week also suggested that May’s Cabinet were coming around to the idea of an extended transition period, during which free movement would continued.
However, Brandon Lewis told Radio 4’s Today programme that there would be an immediate end to free movement rules.
“Free movement of labour ends when we leave the European Union in the Spring of 2019,” he said.
“We’re very clear that free movement ends when we leave.”
Lewis added that: “There will be a new immigration system in place from the spring of 2019 and that will be outlined in the immigration bill that will go through Parliament next year.”
The Home Office today commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to produce a report on the impact of EU migration.
The home secretary commissioned the study in order to find out the “economic costs and benefits” from EU migration on the UK, but it will not report back until September 2018, just seven months before the end of the Article 50 period.
Writing in the Financial Times Rudd said: “I also want to reassure businesses and EU nationals that we will ensure there is no “cliff edge” once we leave the bloc.”
Rudd wrote that the government wants to create “an environment that allows us to achieve sustainable levels of net migration. Leaving the EU gives us the chance to do this sensibly, by controlling the flow of migration from Europe while at the same time ensuring that we continue to attract people to the UK who benefit us economically, socially and culturally.”
Net immigration from the EU was estimated to be at 133,300 last year in official statistics, and the Conservative government committed in its manifesto that it would get immigration down to “tens of thousands.”
Free movement is one of the central pillars of the EU, and is something the government has said it will take the UK out of.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: “The government needs to explain why this study wasn’t commissioned a year ago, directly after the referendum.
“The NHS, businesses and universities that depend on European citizens need answers now, not in another 14 months’ time.”
The UK will leave the EU on March 31, 2019, two years on from when Article 50 is triggered, when Lewis said that free movement will end.
The immigration minister said the government had “a determination to see migration fall to sustainable levels, and we think that is tens of thousands.”