Chequers Meeting Immigration vs Single Market

On Wednesday 31st August the Theresa May held a meeting at the Prime Minister’s retreat in Wycombe, Chequers. Many stating that this would be one of the largest meetings since the referendum vote this marking the first meeting on Brexit since the summer break. This also marked the end of the lull regarding Brexit. Ministers however over the summer breaks have been getting to grips with their new posts and have been attempting to find ‘opportunities’ that Brexit presents for their departments which were meant to be discussed at this meeting.

From the outset May declared that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ meaning no potential second referendum with negotiations being described as unique. This will inevitably be one of the largest negotiations for Britain as well as the Community. The government will have to deliver on negotiating limiting freedom of movement while attempting to remain part of the single market. This is a difficult task for Britain with a civil service that had been repeatedly cut over the past years. For the Community retaining unity amongst all member states and a commitment to deeper integration is vital – though they will be losing one of the largest contributors to the Community in Britain.

The Chequers meeting clarified some broad aspects of the government. This included that Brexit would have to work for the entire UK including Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. May also reiterated what was she had previously stated in that Article 50 would not be triggered until the 2017 at the earliest. This meeting was attempting to generate ideas on how to proceed on negotiations. It is clear however, with such a monumental the process will be lengthy. This is reflected by the way in which the Community has dealt with trade deals with other nations outside of the Community such as Canada which began in 2009 and concluded in February 2016.

Negotiations will have to deal with an array of matters. It will be a lengthy process and with such a vast task negotiations will likely be dealt in various stages. The table below shows a few possibilities of the trade-off between the single market and immigration control:


Immigration Single Market
Complete free movement of workers Britain contributes to the Community budget. Retaining access to the free market
Emergency measures on free movement of people. Britain being able to limit migration when pressures grow and borders are strained Britain contributes a smaller amount to the Community budget. With big businesses having access to the single market
Work permits required by EU migrants that are less strict than those for non-EU migrants. Britain does not contribute to the Community budget and key industries have less access to the Community – potentially having to deal with the Community like non-EU businesses but less stricter
Strict control on EU workers, free movement remains for students and family members Britain does not contribute to the Community. Has minimal access to the single market.
Complete end of free movement of people – visa applications required for EU migrants along with work permits. No access to the internal market, Britain relies heavily on global trade with other nations and follow an array of deregulatory  policies



The table is simplifies the trade-off between immigration and access to the single market but does however show broadly, the possible futures post Brexit. All government departments will have to work extremely hard over the coming years working on these negotiations. Departmental differences will override the divisions between remainers and leavers which have alleged to begun to take shape at the Chequers meeting.  Number Ten officials are keen to deliver on an immigration. While The Treasury officials want access to the single market, which is their top priority.

The government as a whole under May are aware of a difficult autumn that awaits them, however at this stage they have yet to formulate a clear policy or plan towards Brexit. Though with Brexit being an immense and unique task it is step into the unknown and the government will have to be reactive as much as it attempts to be proactive and ease the fears of business and the British public.