Peers launch bid to continue Freedom of Movement after Brexit

The House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

The House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A renewed bid to secure the continuation of free movement with the EU as part of future trade links has been launched by peers at Westminster.

The government has been pressed in the House of Lords to hammer out a so-called “mobility framework” with Brussels.

The Liberal Democrat-led call came during the committee stage in the upper house of the government's trade bill, which will enable the UK to forge new commercial ties with other countries after breaking from the bloc.

Under the legislation, a number of peers are wanting a deal to be struck that “enables all UK and EU citizens to exercise the same reciprocal rights to work, live and study for the purpose of the provision of trade in goods or services”.

It follows the passage of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill through the upper house which will end free movement and paves the way for a new points-based system.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Fox said: “We rely on the reciprocal movement of people around the world in order for services and our services industry to thrive.

“Yet the message sent through the narrow criteria of the Immigration Bill is really the opposite.” Mobility frameworks “are to our mutual advantage”, he added.

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Backing the call, independent crossbencher Baroness Bull argued that it “seeks to secure the continued success of the UK’s trade in goods and services with the EU and to preserve the mobility framework that will be vital in achieving this aim”.

She argued services had “undoubtedly been the Cinderella of the Brexit story”.

“There is an inextricable link between services and mobility. Service provision requires people on the ground,” said Lady Bull.

While higher education and tourism relied on inward mobility, other service industries were “heavily dependent” on EU workers, such as health, road haulage and the creative industries, she added.

But Tory Baroness Noakes said Britain had voted to take back control of its borders and accused peers of trying to recreate arrangements under the EU.

“We shouldn’t be constantly harking back to life as it was when we were a member of the EU,” she said.

Viscount Younger of Leckie, responding for the government, dismissed the move as running counter to manifesto commitments.

Lord Younger said the priority was to restore economic and political independence next January.

Ministers wanted a relationship with the EU based on “friendly co-operation between sovereign equals centred on free trade”.

There were ongoing negotiations about reciprocal arrangements for sending employees to other countries to deliver services on a temporary basis. But reintroducing a comprehensive mobility framework ran counter to the manifesto on which the Government was elected, Lord Younger said.

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