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Insiders: Government Willing to Sacrifice Immigration Controls for Single Market in Brexit Talks

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JACK MONTGOMERY

Insiders claim the Government is abandoning its ambitions for a so-called “have your cake and eat it” Brexit, and are considering trading away sovereignty in order to protect “economic interests”.

The left wing Guardian claims to have spoken to officials who say the Government is coming around to the view that “really there are only two viable options: One is a high [market] access, low [immigration] control arrangement which looks a bit like the [European Economic Area (EEA)]”.

“The other is a low [market] access, high [immigration] control arrangement where you eventually end up looking like [the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)] – a more classic free trade agreement, if you are lucky.

“Of course the policy position remains the Lancaster House speech which says what we want is a high-access, high-control situation, but the author of that speech [reported to be Theresa May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy] is no longer in an influential position.”

EEA countries are party to so-called ‘Four Freedoms’ of the EU’s Single Market, which provide for the Free Movement of Goods, Capital, Services, and Labour.

The Four Freedoms are not without their problems, the most obvious being the inability to limit or effectively vet immigration which comes with Free Movement of Labour.

However, the remaining three ‘freedoms’ also have their issues: Free Movement of Capital provides big businesses in Britain with various lucrative tax avoidance opportunities. Whilst Free Movement of Services does not exist “in any meaningful sense of the term” according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for European Reform and various trade bodies and fund managers.

Even Free Movement of Goods is not entirely benign, preventing the Government from taking action against controversial commercial practices such as live animal exports.

The Guardian source hints at the core of the pushback against a ‘Clean Brexit’, saying that “There are some ministers, such as the [Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond], who understand that and there are others who either don’t or are unwilling to”.

Hammond has long been reported as leading the rearguard action against Brexit within the Cabinet, with his officials allegedly to be in “street-fighting mode” as they attempt to preserve the closest thing to membership of the Single Market and Customs Union they can in the eventual Brexit deal.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery

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