Brexit Briefings 4 – Freedom of Movement

In his fourth Brexit Challenge paper, Nick Clegg sets out the challenges facing the Government on Freedom of Movement.

In Lord Ashcroft’s analysis, one third (33%) of Leave voters said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”


The free movement of people across borders is one of the defining characteristics of the European Union and its Single Market. Citizens of the UK and other EU Member States are entitled to live and work wherever they choose, or if not working, to live in another Member State subject to some restrictions related to their ability to support themselves. Individual Member States are bound by these common rules and cannot unilaterally erect barriers to immigration from other parts of the Union.

This paper does not dwell on the nature of the link between participation in the Single Market and free movement, nor does it make a value judgement about what the best outcome is from a liberal policy perspective. Instead the aim is to provide a factual and technical analysis of some of the practical questions and obstacles which stand in the way of far-reaching reform of freedom of movement.

It is hard to see how the government can strike a deal with the EU which both delivers on the Leave campaign’s premise that control would be re-established over immigration, while also protecting the interests of the British economy. It seems inevitable that one or the other will have to be sacrificed to some degree.

Some questions that need to be answered

  1. How will the government meet the demand for low-skilled migrant workers? Will this be met from the EEA or from outside the EEA?
  2. How will the government safeguard key sectors which rely on skilled EU workers, for example UK research and development which excels precisely because of the UK’s ability to attract the brightest and best?
  3. Will there be additional investment in training and skills for UK workers?
  4. Will employers in sectors which depend on EU workers be expected to meet the cost of additional paperwork and bureaucracy?
  5. Will EU citizens resident in the UK be allowed to stay? According to what criteria?
  6. Will UK pensioners and other citizens living in the EU be allowed to stay post-Brexit? Who will pay the cost of their healthcare and other public services?

Nick Clegg is the Liberal Democrat’s Spokesperson on the European Union.

The full text of the first Brexit Challenge paper can be read here.

Judith Bunting is the Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury constituency. Her article about Brexit Concerns for West Berkshire can be read here. 


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