Immigration was perceived to be one the key issues of contention in the referendum of 23 June 2016. The desire to limit immigration, in general, and from the European Union, specifically was cited as one of the main factors motivating the leave vote that prevailed on the day.
Article 45 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union establishes the right of all citizens of the European Union to “move and freely reside” within the territory of Member States. Article 46 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union prohibits discrimination between workers of member states in matters of employment.
The articles apply to all countries that are party to the European single market, including non-EU members such as Norway or Iceland that are part of the European Economic Area (EEA). Switzerland has taken on these obligations (in slightly modified form) under one of its package of bilateral agreements with the EU.
The UK government, under the leadership of Theresa May took the position that it would rescind its participation in single market rules on the movement of people. The qui pro quo that it proposed was that the UK also leave the single market for services. That position is largely reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration finalised in late 2018.
Changes to policy on immigration, labour and skills is expected to have profound social and economic impacts. The articles in this section look at some of these in more detail.