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Britain is considering allowing European Union citizens to travel freely to the country even after Brexit as Prime Minister Theresa May’s government draws up plans to manage immigration from the bloc.
EU nationals would be free to visit the U.K., but working, studying or settling there would require them to secure permission, a U.K. official said on condition of anonymity because the plans are still being worked on.
The Times reported late Wednesday that EU nationals would be able to live in the U.K. after Brexit, but a permits system would limit the number of them allowed to work. The Home Office said plans have yet to be finalized and will be published “within weeks.”
May’s government is seeking to deliver on its commitment to reduce immigration, concern over which led many to back Brexit in last year’s referendum. Businesses from banks to farms have expressed concern that the crackdown might hamper their ability to find the skills they need.
Read more: Ireland Says It Won’t Be Pawn in Brexit Talks, Puts EU on Spot
Allowing a free flow of visitors would help deal with the thorny issue of policing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit as the U.K. wants to maintain the common travel area on the island. James Brokenshire, the U.K.’s Northern Ireland secretary, said on Wednesday that immigration controls aren’t just about borders, and a “comprehensive” approach would include measures such as restricting visitors’ access to public services.
The Office for National Statistics reported on Wednesday that there were a record 2.37 million EU workers in Britain between April and June this year, up 126,000 from the same period in 2016.