EU citizens will be free to visit the UK after Brexit without having to obtain visas, it has emerged.
Whitehall sources confirmed reports that plans for a post-Brexit immigration system, due to be published later this year, would allow EU citizens to enter the UK freely.
But that does not mean EU citizens will have the automatic right to stay indefinitely, the sources said on Thursday. If they want to work in the UK, they will need to comply with new migration restrictions.
Ministers have repeatedly said that although Brexit will give the government the power to control immigration, that does not mean they want to stop it entirely, and that they want to continue to allow companies to hire skilled workers from the EU.
There had been calls for the government to use quotas to control the number of skilled EU workers coming into the UK. But sources denied a claim in a report in the Times saying that the new system would involve a set number of work permits being issued for EU workers coming to the UK to work in particular employment sectors.
The immigration plans being published later this year will set out the government’s proposals for a new, long-term system. Different rules may apply during the transitional period that is likely to be imposed after the Brexit negotiations.
Although EU citizens will not need a visa to cross the border and enter the UK after Brexit, it does not amount to the continuation of free movement, which refers to the right of EU citizens to work in another member state.
Tory MPs in favour of Brexit told the Times that they were happy with the idea of EU nationals being able to visit the UK without a visa. Andrew Bridgen told the paper he did not object to EU citizens entering the country. “What they won’t be able to do is work or claim benefits,” he said.