You can have freedom of movement outside the EU if you’re in the single market

21 February 2020
What was claimed

Norway has free movement with the EU, despite not being in the single market.

Our verdict

Norway does have free movement, but it is in the single market.

What was claimed

Once the UK leaves the single market, freedom of movement no longer applies.

Our verdict

Correct. Freedom of movement is one of the rules of the single market.

“Once we come out of the single market freedom of movement falls.”Diane Abbott MP, 19 February 2020

“Norway’s not in the single market and yet they have free movement.”Kay Burley, 19 February 2020

Asked on Sky News if a future Labour government would reintroduce the free movement of people between the UK and the EU, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: “Once we come out of the single market, freedom of movement falls.”

Presenter Kay Burley responded by saying, “Norway’s not in the single market and yet they have free movement.”

Ms Abbott was correct on her point. But Ms Burley was incorrect to say that Norway is not in the single market. It is their place in the single market that means they follow freedom of movement rules.

What is the single market?

The single market refers the trading area in the EU. EU states are members and have to follow all the market’s rules, principally the free movement of goods, people, services and capital.

In addition, members of the European Economic Area (EEA) align their rules to the single market and so are essentially part of it. This includes Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, but remains a member of the single market during the transition period.

Is Norway in the single market?

Norway is part of the single market, which is why it follows the four freedoms. Ms Burley was wrong to suggest otherwise.

Later in the interview, Ms Burley seemed to correct herself by saying, “Norway are not in the European Union, as I’ve said, and they have free movement of people.” This statement is true. Norway is not in the EU. It is only in the single market.

Brexit with free movement

Ms Abbott is correct to say that once the UK leaves the single market, freedom of movement no longer applies.

After Ms Burley corrects herself and suggests she has been referring to the EU, and not the single market, all along, Ms Abbott then changes her previously correct statement, saying “once we actually leave the EU, freedom of movement falls.”

This is technically incorrect. The UK has already left the EU and still has freedom of movement.

The UK could also keep free movement of people with the EU after the end of the transition period, as part of a future trade deal with the EU.

However this is not and has never been the government’s plan. It would require the UK to negotiate with the EU to stay in the single market.

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