The Prime Minister’s spokesman has confirmed that the current freedom of movement to the UK from the EU will end in 2019. Downing Street has insisted that it is “wrong” to believe that free movement is going to “continue as it is now” after Britain leaves the union in March 2019. The communication comes after days of confusion and mixed messages from the government on what is almost certainly the toughest issue facing Brexit negotiators.
Tensions are growing in the government as senior ministers continue to pull in different directions over the future of Britain’s relationship with the European Union after Britain leaves it in 2019. Senior ministers including Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd have backed the need for transitional arrangements to cover migration after 2019. But this has been rebuffed by Brexit supporting International Trade Secretary Liam Fox who has suggested transitional controls would be against the wishes of those who voted to leave the Union. He also conceded that there was so far no agreed stance on immigration.
But with all of this in the background, Downing Street insists that nothing has changed. The Prime Minister set out her own path in a speech recently at Lancaster house. The spokesman insisted that the Prime Minister's position is “very clear and well-known”. Though this doesn’t seem to deter her senior ministers from talking of differing directions and shows just how little control the Prime Minister has after her devastating General Election result.
Though Downing Street has had to concede that “it will take time to get immigration number down”. This appears to be an admission that the government will not hit its targets on reducing immigration to the UK.
Chancellor Hammond has recently come to the fore; it was widely expected that if the General Election went well for Theresa May then she would look to remove the Chancellor. Hammond has been a thorn in the side of the Prime Minister for some time and now seems to be using her significant weakened position to exploit his own opportunity for a run at the top job in British politics. In an interview with Radio 4, Hammond stated that there would be an introduction of a registration system for people coming to the UK to work during the transitional period after Brexit. But this has been dismissed by Liam Fox who has implied that Hammond is working by himself and this hasn’t been agreed by the cabinet.
All of this will do little to inspire trust. The government’s continued infighting is of grave concern to those who need certainty in the run up to 2019. Many have highlighted the need for the Conservatives to replace the Prime Minister as she no longer holds sway over the party. This may well be true and a tricky summer looks to ensue. The UK desperately needs some certainty and removing the Prime Minister may provide some temporary stability if the Conservatives can get behind her inevitable replacement.