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The foreign secretary Boris Johnson has told at least four EU ambassadors that he supports freedom of movement, even though the government has a very hard stance on Brexit.
Ambassadors were speaking under the Chatham House rule which allows any comments to be reported on, but not directly attributed.
One ambassador said: “He did say he was personally in favour of free movement, as it corresponds to his own beliefs. But he said it wasn’t government policy.”
Jonathan Lis, deputy director of the pro-single market think tank British Influence told Sky News: “We are interested to learn that Boris Johnson supports free movement of people and is prepared to tell his negotiating partners as much – even though this appears to go against his public statements as Foreign Secretary, as well as the Government’s self-declared red line.”
“Of course, continued membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) would allow for single market access with some discretion over free movement – or if the Government agrees with the Foreign Secretary, full free movement as now.”
The European Parliament describes the freedom of movement and residence for anyone in the EU as the “cornerstone of Union membership”, this was established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992.
However, Prime Minister Theresa May has said the government is on due course to controlling immigration above continued membership of the single market. May is also preparing to trigger Article 50 by the end of March so she can begin official Brexit negotiations.