Home secretary Sajid Javid today put EU nationals back on high alert over their future in the UK, saying there would be no automatic right for them to come and work here after Brexit.
He also refused to say whether highly-skilled workers would be able to look for a job in the UK without the need for a visa or whether businesses would require a visa for each EU worker they employ.
Giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, the home secretary told MPs all foreign nationals would require some form of “leave” to enter the country under a future immigration regime.
He said the government was not planning for EU workers to have an “automatic” right to take up employment in the UK.
While the government has presented arrangements for EU nationals already in Britain, proposals for immigration rules that will come into force after the post-Brexit implementation period ends in December 2020 are yet to be detailed.
Mr Javid said: “There will be a complete, total end to freedom of movement.
“Freedom of movement as we understand it today will end. There will be no version of that, no derivative of that, no back door version of freedom of movement.
“Some parliamentarians have suggested: ‘Can you end it in name only and can you have some sort of back door arrangement?’ Absolutely not.”
He said the right of someone “as their own free choice” to come and work in the UK could not be part of any “mobility” agreement with the EU.
Mr Javid added: “There will be no automatic right for anyone in the EU for example, or anyone else for that matter, to just make a unilateral decision that they can just hop on a plane or ferry and just come and work in the UK. That will end.
“In terms of work we are not planning any automatic right.”
Pressed on whether this meant he was ruling out allowing scientists, doctors and other highly skilled individuals from taking up work in the UK without a visa, he replied: “We are not anticipating an automatic right for anyone, including those categories mentioned.”
Questioned further, Mr Javid said: “What we are ruling out is freedom of movement. That will clearly necessitate a series of changes to all categories of people coming to the UK. “Specifically about ‘will this require a visa, will that require a visa?’… we will negotiate that.”
He added: “What we anticipate is that when freedom of movement ends, everyone that enters the UK, wherever they are from in the world, will need leave. It can take different forms.”
The home secretary stressed that the government’s intention was for visa-free travel to the UK from the EU to continue for visitors including tourists, adding that there would be a “common sense approach” to students from the bloc.
He told the Committee that a white paper due to be published on Thursday would not focus on immigration, although there would be a “high level” chapter on the issue.
A specific immigration paper is expected to be published later this year.
Labour MP Gareth Thomas, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: “It is difficult to see how the EU will be able to accept Theresa’s May draconian curbs on the citizens of other EU nations being able to work in this country or how it helps businesses to lose access to highly skilled workers.
“These restrictions are further evidence that the government’s latest Brexit proposals are more about getting a deeply divided Conservative Party through to their Summer holidays than about what’s best for Britain.”