‘Hard’ or ‘Soft’ Brexit: EU Migration Versus Single Market Dilemma

Written by | Thursday, December 29th, 2016

According to Migration Watch, an independent and non-political body monitoring migration to the United Kingdom, EU migration will not decline sharply if the UK stays in the single market. The organization says that if the UK kept single market membership after Brexit, net migration from the EU would not probably drop below 155,000 a year in the medium term, compared to 189,000 now. Migration Watch claims that market membership and migration control are incompatible.

Prime Minister Theresa May indicated earlier that she wants to have control over freedom of movement rules as part of the final deal. The British PM believes that limits on EU migration would help the government in its broader objective of reducing net migration – the difference between the number of people moving to the UK and those leaving. In last 18 months, a record of EU citizens – 284,000 in total – moved to the UK, leaving net EU migration at 189,000.

However, Brussels has firmly stated that the country would not be allowed to cherry pick, saying that access to the single market would not be possible without freedom of movement for EU citizens. This has led some British ministers to float the idea of a transitional deal in which the UK would pay for access to the EU market for an interim period. There are therefore two types of Brexit that are being negotiated: “soft Brexit“, whose suppors believe that the access to the EU single market is crucial for the British economy, and “hard Brexit“, whose supporters rule out the access to the single market if it meant no control over EU migration.

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