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Free movement to continue for up to four years after Brexit - reports

2 min read

Cabinet ministers have conceded that the free movement of EU citizens into the UK will continue for up to four years after Britain quits the EU, according to a report.

Theresa May is expected to make the offer to EU citizens as part of a transition deal which would allow British business to avoid a “cliff edge” after leaving the bloc in March 2019.

The uncertainty has been recognised as a source of frustration for UK businesses, with a senior cabinet official telling The Guardian: “If you ask business when they want to see it agreed, they’d say tomorrow.”

They added that such a deal could last between two and four years and is expected to involve continued free movement of people.

Ministers have been at loggerheads for months over the possibility of an extensive transition period, with Chancellor Philip Hammond pushing for a more gradual withdrawal until a free-trade deal is agreed.

Meanwhile Mr Davis and Liam Fox had previously voiced their opposition to a prolonged exit. Mr Fox told the BBC yesterday however that he held no "ideological barrier" against a transitional phase.

The Times reports that a two-year transition phase is under consideration however, and that a new immigration system would be introduced after that period.

Mrs May met with business leaders in Downing Street yesterday, and a spokesman said: "On Brexit, the Prime Minister reiterated that the Government’s overarching goal is for a smooth, orderly exit culminating in a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU, with a period of implementation in order to avoid any cliff-edges.

Labour MP Wes Streeting said: "If it is true that the Cabinet now accept the need for a transitional period to avoid a cliff-edge Brexit, it is a welcome u-turn from Ministers and a big victory for the Chancellor.

"Realism rather than rhetoric must now drive the Government's approach to Brexit. If they are serious about doing what is best for our economy, then they should start exploring British membership of the single market and the customs union beyond a transition period."

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