Austria Spells Out Immigration Curb as Red Line in Brexit Talks

  • Chancellor won’t accept concessions on free movement of people
  • Austrian labor market is facing pressure from EU workers

Austria said it will make sure that the U.K. doesn’t win any concessions on immigration from the European Union if it gets full access to the bloc’s common market after leaving.

“If we grant exceptions on the free movement of people, then we’ll have a discussion about it everywhere in Europe,” Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern told journalists in Vienna. “Also in Austria, and rightly so, if you look at the labor market.”

Austria’s unemployment rate has been picking up in recent years, in contrast to Germany, it’s northern neighbor. Kern said the difference between the two was that Austria’s labor market faced greater pressure from EU immigrants. Therefore, he wouldn’t be able to explain to Austrians that the U.K. could curb immigration without losing any benefits.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants to curtail the free movement of people even if it means giving up access to the EU’s single market. This drew a warning from European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, who said there won’t be any cherry-picking and that the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor were a “package.” The U.K. has yet to trigger formal negotiations on its exit from the EU.

“Free movement of people and full market access are principles that depend on each other,” Kern said. “There can’t be one without the other.”