Free movement of EU citizens to Britain will end in 2019

LONDON • The automatic right of EU citizens to live and work in Britain will end in March 2019 with Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said, after her ministers publicly differed over the shape of the divorce with the European Union.

Since Mrs May's failed gamble on a snap election in June, the future of Brexit has been thrown into question with squabbling between her ministers over the pace, tone and terms of Britain's departure from the club it joined in 1973.

Mrs May has faced public pressure to temper her plans for a clean break from the EU. She has repeatedly said Brexit will take place as scheduled in late March 2019.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury has said the chance of this was "infinitesimally small". The Most Reverend Justin Welby, who is the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion and sits in the House of Lords, said domestic political wrangling would impede the detailed work that is needed for Brexit.

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In response, Mrs May's spokesman said the government remained committed to the exit timetable.

Immigration from the EU is one of the most contentious issues because the economy relies on imported labour but many British voters are angry over what they consider to be uncontrolled immigration.

IMMIGRATION CHANGES AFTER BREXIT

Free movement will end in March 2019. Other elements of the post-Brexit immigration system will be brought forward in due course. It would be wrong to speculate on what these might look like or to suggest that free movement will continue as it is now.

'' MR JAMES SLACK, spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, adding that the government had already set out some details.

"Free movement will end in March 2019," spokesman James Slack told reporters, adding that the government had already set out some details, including proposals on EU citizens' rights after Brexit.

"Other elements of the post-Brexit immigration system will be brought forward in due course. It would be wrong to speculate on what these might look like or to suggest that free movement will continue as it is now," he said.

The government has for years failed to meet a pledge to reduce net migration below 100,000 a year. Mr Slack said it would take time to get the numbers down, but the government was committed to doing so.

Finance Minister Philip Hammond last week said there should be no immediate change to immigration rules when Britain leaves the bloc, and Interior Minister Amber Rudd said there would be no "cliff edge" on leaving the EU.

But Trade Minister Liam Fox said allowing free movement after Brexit would not "keep faith" with the referendum result.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'Free movement of EU citizens to Britain will end in 2019'. Print Edition | Subscribe