Freedom of movement for millions of British and EU citizens will end in 2019 when Brexit takes effect, the U.K. government insisted on Monday.
The statement appeared to rule out transitional post-Brexit arrangements recently raised by a senior British minister.
“There were reports last week that we were looking for an off-the-shelf model; we are not looking for an off-the-shelf model. Precisely what the implementation model will look like is up for negotiation,” a government spokesperson said, adding more confusion to Brexit affairs.
The Monday statement contradicted reports run by the Financial Times that Chancellor Philip Hammond told business leaders the U.K. could retain full access to the single market and customs union for a time after Brexit in 2019.
Hammond was reported as suggesting an “implementation phase” for new customs system and immigration checks once a permanent deal is finalized with Europe.
However, immigration minister Brandon Lewis last week insisted people’s freedom of movement between the U.K. and the rest of Europe will come to a definite end with Brexit.
Lewis said: “Free movement of labor ends when we leave the European Union in the spring of 2019.”
“But we’re very clear that free movement ends. It’s part of the four key principles of the European Union. When we leave, it therefore -- by definition -- ends,” Lewis added.
His remarks seemed to run counter to previous reports the U.K. would have a transition period of between 2-4 years before ending freedom of movement -- a key right enjoyed by millions of EU citizens.
The U.K. is expected to leave the EU in 2019 after completing exit negotiations which commenced in June.