UK free movement deal possible, hints French presidential favourite

The Guardian reports: Alain Juppé, the frontrunner in next year’s French presidential elections, is to visit London and has suggested a deal may be possible on free movement of workers that will allow the UK access to the single market.

Juppé is quoted in the Financial Times as saying the issue is up for negotiation. The politician from the mainstream French right will visit London on Monday and is certain to be pressed to give a fuller explanation about how much flexibility of movement he envisages. His remarks do not tally with the position of either the European commission or the German or French governments.

Juppé is also expected to seek assurances about the status of French citizens living in the UK after the frontrunner for the Tory leadership, Theresa May, said the status of existing EU migrants would be a factor in any negotiations on the terms of a British withdrawal from the EU.

Her remarks were supported by the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, who said it would be absurd to give assurances on the status of EU citizens in the UK before similar assurances came from the EU about UK citizens. Hammond has been a leading UK voice arguing for a trade-off in talks between access to the single market and free movement of EU citizens.

The EU is uneasy about giving the UK any concessions on free movement since it is likely to lead to calls for similar treatment from other nationalist politicians in Europe.

The EU has been refusing any concessions for the Swiss on free movement despite a referendum in 2014 insisting the government impose immigration controls. Switzerland is wary of losing access to the European single market, and may have to hold a second referendum if no deal is offered by the EU. [Continue reading…]

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