Merkel leads UK warnings on single market and free movement

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has led a series of warnings from ministers across Europe that Britain cannot expect to be part of the European single market without allowing free movement of people.

Receiving rapturous applause when speaking in front of German business leaders, Mrs Merkel insisted the UK could not be allowed concessions in remaining in the single market when leaving the EU. The German Chancellor told business leaders that allowing access without accompanied freedom of movement could sound a death knell for the single market, as “everyone will start doing what they want and that would get extraordinarily complicated.”

Mrs Merkel’s views were echoed by officials across Europe in what has been interpreted as a backlash to Theresa May’s uncompromising stance of immigration, which experts have suggested means Britain will push for a ‘hard Brexit’ in negotiations with EU officials. French Housing Minister Emmanuelle Cosse has attacked proposals, set out by UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd, to require British companies to disclose the number of foreign workers they employ. Ms Cosse suggested such a move could prompt “reciprocity” in EU member states.

While formal negotiations still months away, Mrs Merkel’s comments will foster suggestions that UK and EU officials could take hardline approaches once Article 50 is triggered. Equally, following calls for similar referendums in other EU countries, leaders are keen to immediately rebuff suggestions of any concessions to the UK.