Wales politics

Brexit minister says UK 'not pursuing hard immigration policy'

David Jones
Image caption David Jones said ministers would seek a comprehensive free trade agreement

A Brexit minister has denied the UK government wants a "hard immigration" policy with the EU.

David Jones said the Home Office was still drawing up its post-Brexit policy on immigration.

But he said skilled workers from overseas would still be required in the UK.

The Clwyd West Conservative MP made the comments at a meeting of the assembly external affairs committee on Tuesday afternoon.

At the assembly committee hearing, Labour AM Eluned Morgan asked: "Why are you willing to sacrifice the economy of Britain for the sake of a hard immigration policy?"

Mr Jones said: "I don't acknowledge for a start that we are pursuing a hard immigration policy, because as I've indicated to you already, the Home Office is actually addressing this particular issue so the policy hasn't yet been fully developed.

"And in any event we fully realise that there is a need for people with talent and skills to work in this economy."

'Pragmatism'

The single market's rules on freedom of movement made full membership of it "incompatible" with the result of the referendum, he said.

Having spoken to counterparts in the EU, he said he could "detect a note of pragmatism creeping in", adding that the negotiations would be "challenging, but attainable".

Ministers would seek a "comprehensive free trade agreement" with the rest of the EU.

"You're right in saying there's no guarantee that any such arrangement can be arrived at, but what I would say is that there is every incentive for an arrangement to be arrived at."

The UK will be the biggest export market for the rest of the EU, he said, giving the bloc an "incentive to arrive at favourable trade terms".

He added that the UK government wanted the "best possible access to the single market" and for EU businesses to have "enhanced access" to the British market.

The Welsh Government has called for the continued "participation" of the UK in the single market.

Mr Jones declined to comment on leaked reports that steel would be a treated as a "low priority" in Brexit negotiations.

Earlier, he told BBC Wales the House of Lords should not frustrate the will of the people on Europe.

Peers will next week debate the bill to trigger the Article 50 process to leave the EU, already passed by the Commons.

"I suggest they have a look at the outcome of the referendum which was clearly in favour of leaving the EU, that they have a look at the outcome of the vote in the elected House of Commons which was four to one in favour of triggering the article 50 procedure," he said.

"As [Brexit Secretary] David Davis said the other day, I'm sure the lords would want to do their patriotic duty."

Related Topics

More on this story