Ask Full Fact: Would restricting free movement actually be possible?

Published: 4th Jul 2016

Read our full briefing on immigration and the EU referendum here.

If the UK votes to leave the EU, how plausible is it that we will be able to restrict the free movement of EU citizens?

Full Fact readers

If you want to decide whether you think it’s plausible, there’s two questions you need to consider.

The first question is whether any future trade deals with the EU  would require the UK to accept the free movement of citizens.

Switzerland and Norway both accept EU laws in return for access to the single market, these include rules guaranteeing the free movement of people. So free movement might still be a condition of future trade deals with the UK as well.

Leave campaigners say that the UK would be able to strike trade deals which were different to either of these. It’s impossible to predict the outcome of future trade negotiations, which depend on many factors including the priorities of UK negotiators.

The second question is whether future governments would be able to meet immigration targets for EU citizens, if they chose to set them.

The UK government has failed to meet targets for non-EU immigration in the past, so it’s not guaranteed they would be able to meet immigration targets for EU citizens in the future.


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