Grantham Journal column: Post-Brexit, we will need to have control over UK immigration

Nick Boles MP.
Nick Boles MP.
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Although I voted for the UK to remain in the EU, I am determined to support Theresa May in her commitment to deliver Brexit.

The British people made a clear choice and they have the right to expect their MPs to implement their decision. As an independent MP on the Conservative backbenches, I intend to follow the negotiation of our new relationship with the European Union closely and to contribute to the debate in Parliament and the media about what new arrangements we should be seeking. As the process unfolds, it is bound to throw up lots of tricky questions. I will do my best to keep my constituents informed and offer them opportunities to let me know what they think, both through this column and via Facebook and Twitter.

Although the Prime Minister is characteristically keeping her cards close to her chest, and refusing to provide a running commentary for fear of undermining her negotiating position, one thing is already clear. Our new relationship with the European Union will have to give us what our current membership does not: control over levels of immigration from Europe and an end to freedom of movement. I believe the PM is right to have been unequivocal on this point. In the end the referendum boiled down to the following question: “Which do you think is more important, being part of the Single Market or controlling immigration?” And a clear majority of the British people replied: “Controlling immigration, thank you very much.”

If the EU were to decide to let members of the Single Market introduce controls on immigration from other EU countries, we might be able to have our cake and eat it too. But I don’t think anyone should hold their breath. If the EU had been willing to contemplate relaxing the rules about freedom of movement, they would have offered this to David Cameron during his renegotiation. It might have been enough to swing the referendum vote the other way.

Decision-making in the European Union is often tortuous and bizarre. But even they must realise that to offer this concession now would be like shutting the stable door, walling up the entrance and building a moat around it – all long after the plucky British horse has bolted.