Brexit: UK could retain control of migration from EU for up to 7yrs while staying in single market

French President Francois Hollande (R) and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May attend a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 21, 2016. © Philippe Wojazer
In a major concession from the EU, the UK could be exempted from free-movement rules while still retaining access to the single market. The ‘emergency brake’ on immigration could be extended to seven years – better than any deal David Cameron secured.

As a potential Brexit framework starts to emerge, neighbors keep reminding the UK to get on with it, but the negotiations are ongoing. This latest concession, if put into force, would be unprecedented, although unnamed high-ranking UK officials told the Guardian it’s still “very early days.”

In the run-up to the signing of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty governing the exit, British Prime Minister Theresa May has been meeting with EU leaders. Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande have been found to have different feelings on how Britain should proceed. Hollande was impatient for May’s decision on triggering the exit clause at their meeting last week. And the French leader is not in favor of giving Britain any concessions on the freedom of movement rule.

The potential ‘emergency brake’ exemption on migration for up to seven years is something which could allay British fears associated with migration from EU states. As part of the same deal, Britain would keep access to the single European market – something seen as potentially beneficial for the rest of Europe.

The seven-year free-movement brake is just “one of the ideas now on the table,” according to British officials speaking to the Guardian.

If the deal is passed, the UK would still have to contribute to the EU budget, if a little less, and it would also lose its negotiating seat at the single market talks to come, due to not being a full member.

France isn’t the only one who has wondered why Britain voted ‘Leave’, then just stared at the door. Central European members like Poland have been asking for a clean break. Despite that, they should find the deal favorable in that it promises to reduce the shock delivered to the EU economy by Brexit, as the UK would stay part of the single market.

And if Britain were to decide on leaving the single market, Leave campaign architects Boris Johnson –now the foreign secretary – and Michael Gove have talked about savings of around £350 million (US$460 million) a week. They said the money could go toward the NHS – one of the country’s more cash-strapped sectors.

It was later in New York at the UN that Johnson admitted that staying in the EU single market could be more beneficial.

“I’ve absolutely no doubt that that balance can be struck,” he said, promising to pick up negotiations with EU neighbors in the coming weeks. “Everybody wishes to make fast progress in the economic interests both of Britain and of the European Union. I think there is very much a deal there to be done, and the faster we can get it done the better.”

Another recent problem with Brexit had to do with its attractiveness to other members who may also wish to leave the EU. There were concerns that giving Britain too good a deal could force their hand. But according to deputy director of the Rome-based Institute for International Affairs, Nathalie Tocci, who is special adviser to the EU high representative for foreign and security policy Federica Mogherini, Italy could find the single market idea for Britain attractive.

“I see no reason why it could not last, say, between seven and 10 years. This was how long temporary derogations lasted after the 2004 enlargement, which the UK chose not to benefit from,” she said.

The Dutch are also in favor, as long as the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK are observed for the foreseeable future as well.

The idea of a migration brake was considered by former Prime Minister David Cameron as part of the ‘Remain’ campaign, and the limited concessions gained were cited as one of the reasons why the campaign failed.