Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated that EU migrants could continue flowing into the UK for years – even after Britain leaves the European Union in 2019.
May said free movement may linger in the first couple of years after Brexit, as businesses and governments will need time to adjust while the final deal with the EU is implemented.
Speaking to reporters during her trip to the Middle East, May ruled out stripping EU migrants of their right to free movement during the post-Brexit transitional period.
“If you think about it, once we’ve got the deal, once we’ve agreed what the new relationship will be for the future, it will be necessary for there to be a period of time when businesses and governments are adjusting systems and so forth, depending on the nature of the deal.
“What is crucial for the British public, what was part of the vote that they took last year, was that they want to ensure that we have control of our borders and control of our immigration,” she said, stressing “that’s exactly what we will do when we come out of the European Union,” as quoted by the BBC.
However, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall snapped back, saying the PM’s remarks set off “alarm bells.”
“By voting to leave the EU, the British people asked the government to reduce the high levels of immigration that see a city the size of Hull and Newcastle come to the UK each year.
“The fact that the Tories won’t even specify how long the period of open-door immigration will continue after we have left the EU sets alarm bells ringing,” he said, as reported in the Telegraph.
However, Conservative MP and Leave campaigner Sir Bill Cash took the PM’s side, saying that an “implementation period” was necessary to guarantee a “workforce.”
“The fact that we leave means the end of the European legal basis for free movement.
“But there will still be a need for some fluidity of labor and that will be dealt with in the Immigration Bill.
“You can’t have an overlap – EU law will end and the terms of the Immigration Bill will take over, but that will include movement of people for the purposes of having a proper workforce and I think that’s what the Prime Minister was referring to,” he said.
Meanwhile, May seems to have conceded that she won’t be able to negotiate a new trade deal with the bloc before the two-year Article 50 process of bringing the country out of the EU is completed, as she had wanted, since EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have rejected that prospect.
Speaking on Sky News, the Conservative leader said, “there’s obviously a legal situation in terms of how the EU can conduct trade negotiations.
“I’m clear that by the point at which we leave the EU, it’s right that everyone will know what the future arrangement, relationship, partnership between us and EU will be.
“That’s the sensible thing, it’s a pragmatic way to look at it,” she added.