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EU leaders ‘open to freedom of movement reform’ to soften Brexit

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By Chris Harris  with REUTERS
EU leaders ‘open to freedom of movement reform’ to soften Brexit

EU leaders are open to changing freedom of movement rules to keep Britain in the single market, it’s been claimed.

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair says the election of Emmanuel Macron in France has changed the dynamics of European politics.

Blair, writing for his Institute for Global Change, says the new French president has put EU reform back on the agenda and opened up the possibility of other European leaders being more accommodating towards Britain.

“The Macron victory changes the political dynamics of Europe,” said Blair. “The members of the eurozone will integrate economic decision-making. Inevitably, therefore, Europe will comprise an inner and outer circle.”

“Reform is now on Europe’s agenda,” he continued. “The European leaders, certainly from my discussions, are willing to consider changes to accommodate Britain, including around freedom of movement.

“The opposition to free movement of people, once you break it down, is much more nuanced. The French and Germans share some of the British worries, notably around immigration, and would compromise on freedom of movement.”

Blair’s comments are at odds with the EU’s negotiating stance, which stresses there can be no “cherry picking” from the benefits of membership of the EU’s single market without accepting freedom of movement for EU workers.

The UK government says it will leave the single market and design an immigration system to better control who comes into the country.

Blair was prime minister for 10 years until 2007. He wanted to take Britain into the eurozone and believed Britain should lead the way in the EU rather than withdraw from it.

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