Does staying in the single market post-Brexit mean freedom of movement?

When the UK leaves the EU, will staying in the single market also mean we have to keep open door immigration from the EU too?

  • 7
    Yes unless there's a treaty change to remove the requirement. This is highly unlikely as it would require unanimous approval and most EU governments currently consider freedom of movement a good thing.
    – Alex
    Sep 15, 2017 at 10:19
  • 1
    This is all up to negotiations. Most people think that the UK couldn't negotiate their way out of a paper bag, so 99.99% the answer will be "yes". There are two positives: You will remain to be able to move to EU countries, and lots of EU nationals don't consider the UK an attractive destination anymore.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 17, 2017 at 14:38
  • @gnasher729 your comment is extremely ignorant.
    – Charlie
    Sep 17, 2017 at 15:36
  • @gnasher729 Brexit negotiations may include accommodation on freedom of movement but would still need a treaty and unanimity to effect. So negotiation isn't sufficient.
    – Alex
    Sep 18, 2017 at 15:54
  • 1
    @gnasher729 Net EU immigration with the UK is down about 80k between 2016 and 2017. But there is still about 250k EU citizens immigrating to the UK annually. Only Germany has more (or even close) i.e. even with Brexit, the UK is the second most popular destination. Not sure whether this says more about the UK or the rest of the EU.
    – Alex
    Sep 18, 2017 at 16:04

2 Answers 2


That is the EU's negotiation position indeed:

Leaders made it crystal clear today that access to the single market requires acceptance of all four freedoms, including the freedom of movement. There will be no single market "à la carte".

The 'four freedoms' in question are the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders.

(Whether the EU will actually stand firm on this is anyone's guess. Methinks it will.)

  • 3
    The EU doesn't have another option but to strictly enforce this policy or all hell breaks lose in the remaining 27 EU countries.
    – Adwaenyth
    Sep 15, 2017 at 14:26

Actually freedom of movement in the EU was part of the Treaty of Rome, but de-facto it was not established until the Schengen Agreement but United Kingdom and Ireland opted-out of the Schengen Agreement to retain control on their borders.

After March 2019 UK/EU may impose restrictions to "free of movement", as well as some other bilateral benefits (as common access to health services, etc).

The impact will not only be for those who want to work in the UK, but for Britons who want to work/retire in the EU (in Spain there are 770,000 British pensioners, against 110,000 Spanish residents in the UK)

  • 2
    Freedom of movement and the Schengen area are two very different things. Sep 18, 2017 at 13:59
  • Schengen Agreement was regarding the elimination of border controls.
    – roetnig
    Sep 18, 2017 at 14:01
  • Rome only established freedom of movement of workers. Schengen remove some internal borders and harmonised some external controls. It wasn't until Maastricht in 1992 that freedom of movement of people was enshrined in treaty. It's this that's considered to be one of the pillars and is also the cause of most of the controversy in the UK.
    – Alex
    Sep 18, 2017 at 14:06
  • The key milestone in establishing an internal market with free movement of persons was the conclusion of the two Schengen agreements, i.e. the Agreement proper of 14 June 1985, and the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement, which was signed on 19 June 1990 and entered into force on 26 March 1995. Fact Sheets on the European Union (European Parliament) - Free movement of persons
    – roetnig
    Sep 18, 2017 at 14:35
  • @roetnig It was indeed a key milestone in establishing an internal market on the continent. It was and is, of course, completely irrelevant for the UK, as you point out, and hence for Brexit. What is important is what was signed up to in Maastricht, affirmed in Lisbon and not changeable without a new treaty.
    – Alex
    Sep 18, 2017 at 15:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .