Brexit talks start today: Should the UK team be prepared to compromise on freedom of movement?
YES – James McGrory, executive director of Open Britain.
Prior to the election, the government’s hard Brexit plan focused on cutting immigration, regardless of the impact on our economy and people’s livelihoods. Their self-imposed red lines on immigration and sovereignty led to them ruling out continued British membership of the Single Market. They had chosen to pursue an inferior economic model for Britain before a word had been uttered across the negotiating table. The election result was a rejection of that hard Brexit plan. We now need an alternative that puts our economy first. This means rejecting the idea of walking away with no deal, and exploring continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union, to retain totally free trade with our biggest partner. There are real public concerns about immigration, which we should recognise and respect. We must explore the reform of free movement – an idea which is gathering support across the bloc. But we must not pursue a Brexit deal that we know will make people worse off and sacrifice our economic prosperity on the altar of immigration control.
No – Ruth Lea, economic advisor to the Arbuthnot Banking Group.
There is little doubt that freedom of movement, one of the core principles of the Single Market, must end if we are to take back control of our borders and honour the wishes of the majority who voted for Brexit last year. Negotiating a new relationship with the EU without ending freedom of movement would result in no true Brexit at all. Moreover, any “compromise” on freedom of movement would effectively mean the continuation of the current situation – because you either have “freedom” or you do not. You cannot have a bit of freedom. “Compromise” is, I suggest, a weasel word for much of the same. This is not to say we should impose draconian controls over net immigration to the United Kingdom after Brexit. Far from it. This country benefits hugely from immigration. But immigration policy should clearly be geared towards the specific social and economic needs of the country. And we cannot do this if freedom of movement, albeit “compromised”, is to continue.