EU citizens will be able to come to work in the UK without a visa on a “temporary” basis under Theresa May’s plan for Brexit.
In a move likely to infuriate Hard Brexiteers in the Tory Party, the Prime Minister will allow EU workers to “travel freely” to the UK for “tourism and temporary business activity”.
The proposal, part of a long-awaited report on what May hopes to secure from her Brussels negotiations, seems to contradict comments made by the Home Secretary on Wednesday that EU citizens would no longer have an “automatic right” to “hop on a plane” and come to work in the UK.
EU citizens who currently live and work in the UK will be entitled to stay in the country under plans previously announced.
But the white paper’s publication threw the Commons into chaos on Thursday, after Labour MPs complained they had not been given a copy of the paper before Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab stood up to present it.
Commons Speaker John Bercow ordered the government’s statement be delayed for five minutes while copies were circulated, while Labour claimed the newly-appointed cabinet minister had broken the ministerial code by not allowing the opposition advance sight of it.
The document – which prompted the resignations of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Steve Baker – proposes the UK would maintain “frictionless trade” with the EU by mirroring its customs rules, and confirms the Government wants a close relationship with the EU on goods and agri-foods.
Story continues below poll...
But the document is sketchy on detail in key areas, including when the new customs arrangements would come into place and how long EU citizens would be able to work in the UK without a visa.
It is likely to provoke a backlash from Brussels, as it seeks to effectively keep the UK in the Single Market for goods, but not services - something which has been repeatedly ruled out as “cherry picking” by EU leaders.
The white paper repeatedly states that freedom of movement will come to an end after Brexit, but says further details on the UK’s new immigration policy will be produced after the Migration Advisory Committee has released its report in September.
However, the Government has ruled out the need for visas in certain scenarios, and pledged to produce a system that will “support businesses to provide services and move their talented people.”
That plan seems to go against comments made by Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Wednesday.
Appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, Javid said: “There will be no automatic right for anyone in the EU, 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.”
Want to know what’s really going on with Brexit? Sign up for HuffPost UK’s Brexit Briefing - sent straight to your inbox every Thursday.
On the new customs plan, the white paper states the UK’s proposal for a free trade area includes “the phased introduction of a new Facilitated Customs Arrangement that would remove the need for customs checks and controls between the UK and the EU as if in a combined customs territory, while enabling the UK to control tariffs for its own trade with the rest of the world and ensure businesses pay the right tariff.”
It is not yet clear when this new system would come in force – meaning the implementation of trade deals involving goods could be delayed.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who replaced Davis in the job on Monday, launched a staunch defence of the controversial document on Thursday morning.
Raab said the white paper would “reassure all of those with concerns”.
“For those that are either criticising or carping or whatever else, they need to come back with credible alternatives,” Raab told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.
He also said that “as someone who’s got a Brazilian wife” he wants an end to “discrimination” against non-EU citizens at the UK border. Yet when pressed if that meant EU citizens would not get special treatment, he replied that was “subject to negotiation”.
When asked if a deal based on the Chequers plan would win MPs’ approval, he said he was “confident”, adding: “There’s no point in speculating, but we have won. I helped take the EU Withdrawal Bill through the House of Commons and we have got that bill through the House of Commons and the House of Lords, so through all of Parliament.
“We won all but one vote. So all this talk about sabotage and parliamentary riots, when push comes to shove, people will look and see they have got to do the responsible thing, which is back the government and get the best deal for the whole country.
“If not, they too will be held to account.”