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After Brexit, the British government wants tourists, students, and “talented people” from the EU to travel freely in the UK

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Reuters/Francois Lenoir
By Aamna Mohdin
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The British government has published a long-awaited white paper on its Brexit strategy (pdf). And while it is committed to ending the rights of EU nationals to live and work in Britain without visas, Theresa May’s government has proposed to allow tourists, students, and “talented people” from the EU to be able to travel freely in the UK after it leaves the bloc.

The document, published today, notes that any agreement between the UK and the EU on the movement of people must be consistent with the British government’s objective to impose stricter controls on its borders and reduce net migration. The blueprint contains five proposals on the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and vice versa, after Brexit:

  • Support business to carry out services and relocate “talented people”
  • Visa-free travel for EU citizens for tourism and “temporary” business activity
  • Make it easy for students and young people to study and travel within the UK
  • Ensure smooth passage for “legitimate travel,” while strengthening the UK’s borders
  • Guarantee that British citizens living in the EU continue to have access to pensions and healthcare

The document doesn’t provide much further clarity on immigration rules in post-Brexit Britain. The government plans to provide more information in September, when it publishes a more detailed strategy paper specifically on immigration.

May wrote a forward for the paper, in which she calls for “pragmatism and compromise from both sides.” In recent weeks, however, the prime minister has struggled to find consensus among members of her own party, which is deeply split over a “hard” or “soft” Brexit. Shortly getting her cabinet to agree on the strategy paper, which adopts a softer Brexit scenario , three ministers—including Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson—resigned within 24 hours.

Despite the call for compromise, the document is unlikely to please either the EU or hardline Brexiteers. Proposals to allow EU workers to work visa-free in the UK, albeit temporarily, will infuriate the Brexiteers who championed quitting the EU in order to “take back control.” The EU, meanwhile, may see the proposal as another attempt by the UK to cherry-pick aspects of the EU’s single market that Brussels considers a non-negotiable package: the free movement of goods, services, capital, and—yes—people.

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