Downing Street has quashed suggestions that EU citizens will still be able to come to Britain to live and work after Brexit takes effect in March 2019.
A spokesman for Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, said that the principle of free movement — one of the guiding pillars of the EU — would end when the UK leaves.
There had been suggestions that the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, favored a post-Brexit transition period during which immigration would remain broadly the same as before.
“The Prime Minister’s position on an implementation period is very clear and well-known,” said a spokesman for the Prime Minister in a press briefing.
Since May lost her parliamentary majority in a June election, divisions between her ministers over Brexit strategy have broken into the open, with an intense public debate in recent days while May has been away on holiday.
Last week, finance minister Philip Hammond said there should be no immediate change to immigration rules when Britain leaves the bloc, and interior minister Amber Rudd said there would be no ‘cliff edge’ on leaving the EU.
But trade minister Liam Fox said that allowing free movement after Brexit would not “keep faith” with the referendum result and that the government had not reached a consensus on keeping open EU immigration for a transitional period.
Business leaders have expressed concern that a “cliff-edge” exit from EU immigration arrangements would have a detrimental effect on the UK economy, due to a sudden drop in the arrival of skilled workers from Europe.
It is been reported that Hammond as having reassured UK business leaders on the issue.