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Freedom of Movement

Volume 618: debated on Monday 5 December 2016

4. What recent discussions she has had with her counterparts in other EU member states on freedom of movement. (907618)

The Prime Minister has made it clear that article 50 will be triggered before the end of March 2017. We are still working hard on our negotiating position, but we do not want to show our hand of cards before we get into the poker game. However, I assure the hon. Lady that we are determined to get the right deal for Britain.

The Government’s approach to Brexit seems to hinge on their ability to persuade other European member states to allow Britain to opt out of current freedom of movement rules while retaining tariff-free access to the single market. Can the Minister name me one European Minister who has told him that that might be possible?

There are certainly 3.2 million EU nationals in the UK, and it is in their interests to be able to satisfy their Governments about their status here. As the Prime Minister has said, the only circumstance in which we would not want to guarantee their status would be if the status of UK nationals living elsewhere were not similarly guaranteed.

Does my hon. Friend agree that free movement of workers, together with the operation of the laws of supply and demand, inevitably depresses wage levels in this country?

I do not have a degree in economics, but it is true that supply and demand would operate in this area. That is why we are determined to be able to control the numbers of those coming from the EU, just as we already control numbers coming from outside the EU.

In any discussions, will the Minister raise the issue referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin): recruitment agencies, for example, that exploit workers from the EU and undercut UK workers by advertising for unskilled workers outside the UK, but not in the UK?

All these matters will need to be discussed, but I add the point already made by the Home Secretary. When the eastern European countries joined the European Union, transitional arrangements that would have protected jobs to some extent were not put in place.