Theresa May: UK should press EU for free movement reform

Posted On: 
15th June 2016

Theresa May has said the UK should push for reform to the principle of free movement within the European Union. 

Theresa May said the Government should 'look at further reform' of free movement rules
Credit: 
PA Images

Potential changes to the policy, one of the founding principles of the EU, have come to the fore again after senior Labour figures yesterday backed reform.

The Home Secretary, who is advocating a Remain vote in next week’s referendum, lent her backing to reform this evening as she made a rare intervention in the referendum campaign.

Tom Watson: Europe 'has to look' at reforming free movement rules

Theresa May: Free movement makes controlling immigration harder

Theresa May insists Tories will try to change EU free movement rules

She told the BBC: “There are some changes coming up in free movement rules. We should look at further reform in the future.”

Ms May rejected the idea that leaving the EU was necessary to control immigration into Britain.

“There’s no silver bullet, there’s no one thing that you can do that is suddenly going to deal with all the problems and concerns people have with immigration – and that includes leaving the EU, that’s not the single answer to this issue,” she said.

George Osborne this morning appeared to rule out the possibility of curbs to free movement, saying the Government’s stance was to focus on “dealing with abuses” of the principle.

Jeremy Corbyn, too, slapped down deputy Labour leader Tom Watson for floating the idea of restricting the freedom.

The Labour leader said he would "absolutely" fight to defend the principle allowing EU citizens to live and work in any member state.

Speaking to Buzzfeed, he said: "It’s intrinsic to the European Union that there has to be free movement of people."

Vote Leave has seized on the inconsistent messages to accuse the Remain campaign of being "in a complete mess". 

"Not only are they divided over whether or not to talk about immigration, they are deeply split when they do," said Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott. 

"David Cameron and George Osborne are adamant that there is no need to change the freedom of movement rules, while the Home Secretary says that they need reform. Jeremy Corbyn can’t agree with his own Deputy Tom Watson.

"No wonder the public don’t trust the Government’s commitment to bring migration down to the tens of thousands. The only way to get back control of our borders - and introduce an Australian points based system - is to Vote Leave on 23 June."

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Elsewhere in the BBC interview, Ms May, considered a major contender to succeed David Cameron, refused to be drawn about the prospect of her taking the top job in the future.

“David, I hope, is going to carry on until 2020. There’s no vacancy... Whatever I say to you is going to be taken this way or that way. There’s no vacancy, I hope David’s going to continue in the job until 2020.”