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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

IPPR proposes emergency brake on free movement as it sets Brexit options for Theresa May

IPPR today (Wednesday) publishes two papers laying out the options on the economy and migration that Theresa May will now have to grapple with.

Questions on freedom of movement and access to the single market also need to be settled for Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems if they are to provide a credible opposition.

Theresa May has said “there is clearly no mandate for a deal that involves accepting the free movement of people as it has worked hitherto”; meaning that the EU will almost certainly want to restrict the UK’s access to the single market in some way.

On that basis, IPPR argues that of the options available, Theresa May should argue for an emergency brake on migration, triggered whenever EU migration is harming wages in particular occupations, sectors or regions of the UK and, if triggered, would temporarily restrict the number of EU migrants allowed to work in the occupation, sector or community affected.

The most acceptable trade-off for this would be the UK’s membership of the customs union and the single market membership fee.

Tom Kibasi, IPPR Director, said:

“The biggest challenge for Theresa May is correctly judging the right balance between migration policy and access to the single market.

“At IPPR, we think that the best answer is to negotiate a new different emergency brake on free movement, triggered whenever EU migration is harming wages in particular occupations, sectors or regions of the UK and, if triggered, would temporarily restrict the number of EU migrants allowed to work in the occupation, sector or community affected.

“On the single market, it is reasonable to assume that any change to migration policy means changing our access to the single market.

“The first thing to give up is our membership of the customs union. This would not entail giving up free trade with the EU: it would simply mean that we were no longer bound by the trade agreements that the EU has signed between itself and the rest of the world.

“The second price to pay for control over migration should be the fee that we pay into the EU. At IPPR, we believe the politics of the referendum around the fee should not constrain May from making a rational economic choice. In our judgement, it is better to pay a higher fee than to sacrifice access to the single market in tradable goods or in services, which will come at much greater long-term cost.”

The two IPPR reports set out:

On the economy:

We assess the pros and cons of six options for access to the single market, based on the EU’s relationships with a selection of other trading partners, including Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Brazil. The elements of economic integration we consider include free trade for goods and services, membership of a customs union, and adherence to EU laws relating to our tradeable activity.

On migration:

Again, we assess the pros and cons for six options, this time on different levels of freedom of movement: visa restrictions, labour market restrictions, partial labour market restrictions, an emergency brake, and freedom of movement for workers compared to the current status quo of full freedom of movement.


Ends

Contact:

Kieren Walters, [email protected], 07921 403 651
Sarah Horner, [email protected], 07584 604 607
Lester Holloway – [email protected] 07585 772 633

Notes to Editors:

1. The papers will be published on Wednesday 13th July 2016 at: ippr.org/publications/a-progressive-brexit/ and ippr.org.uk/publications/where-next-for-free-movement/

2. Summary of economic options:

3. Summary of options on migration policy: