The British government has said repeatedly that it will end the free movement of people from the European Union when the UK leaves the bloc in 2019. On Wednesday it acknowledged that, in practice, it won't. Britain said there must be no border posts or electronic checks between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic after Brexit, and it committed itself to maintaining the longstanding, border-free Common Travel Area covering the UK and Ireland, the AP reports. That means free movement across the border for British, Irish, and EU citizens. After Britain leaves the bloc, EU nationals will be able to move without checks from Ireland to Northern Ireland, and onto other parts of the UK.
Free movement among member states is a key EU principle, and has seen hundreds of thousands of people move to Britain since the bloc expanded into eastern Europe more than a decade ago. Many Britons who voted last year to leave the EU cited a desire to regain control of immigration as a key reason. In a paper outlining proposals for the Northern Ireland-Ireland border after Brexit, the British government insisted it will be able to control immigration, because "immigration controls are not, and never have been, solely about the ability to prevent and control entry at the UK's physical border." It said control of access to the labor market and social welfare are also "an integral part" of the immigration system. (Read more Brexit stories.)