Brexit: Juncker rules out free movement in future negotiations

‘If you want to have access to the internal market, you have to accept all the conditions’

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Bratislava on Friday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Bratislava on Friday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images


European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has again ruled out any concession on free movement in forthcoming negotiations with Britain on a new relationship with the European Union, highlighting the battle ahead for the next British Prime Minister.

Speaking in Bratislava at an event to mark the beginning of Slovakia’s presidency of the EU, Mr Juncker said that he believed that free movement was the main issue why British voters chose to leave the EU.

“I have had so many discussions to know that there was one major issue, that is the freedom of movement of workers and I will not change that, because this is a basic freedom of the European Union.

“If you want to have access like other member states to the internal market, you have to accept all the conditions of the four freedoms that underline the single market.”

Home Secretary Theresa May, the current favourite to succeed David Cameron as prime minister, has said that she aims to secure access for Britain to the single market but also curb immigration.

As Home Secretary, she previously said she believes the EU free-movement principle should be limited to the freedom to move for a specific job.

Speaking alongside Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, Mr Juncker warned Britain that there was “no time to lose” in commencing negotiations following the country’s decision to leave the European Union a week ago, but repeated “there will be no negotiations without notification,” a reference to the notification of Article 50 which will signal the beginning of formal exit talks.

Launching her Tory leadership bid on Thursday, Ms May indicated that she would not activate Article 50 until next year, a delay that is unlikely to be welcomed by Britain’s EU partners.

As it deals with the fall-out of the referendum result, the European Union has said that there will be no immediate change in policy, with EU leaders ruling out discussion of EU treaty change at their meeting in Brussels earlier this week.

Instead, the 27 EU leaders, minus Britain, will gather in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava on September 16th for an informal summit.

Prime Minister Fico said that a break between the referendum result and the first informal summit would give people some distance from the referendum.

“People can cool down and a clearer picture will be available,” he said, noting that the idea for the summit had emerged a few weeks before the British referendum.

Slovakia assumes the EU’s rotating presidency today for the first time in its history.

On Thursday, Mr Fico said that the European Union to take account of newer member states when formulating policy.

“The crucial decisions on the future of Europe cannot be decided by one or two member states or of the founding member states of the European Union,” he said.

“The future of the Union can no longer be defined without those member states who joined the European Union after 2004.”

His comments follow criticism from Poland and other eastern European members of the decision to hold a meeting of the foreign ministers of the EU’s six founding members in Berlin following the British referendum.