Theresa May has admitted the free movement of people could continue for years after we leave the EU in 2019.
Speaking on her trip to the Middle East, the Prime Minister said she expects there to be an "implementation period" after Brexit before new immigration rules are imposed.
She said: "If you think about it, once we’ve got the deal – once we’ve agreed what the new relationship will be for the future – it will be necessary for there to be a period of time when businesses and governments are adjusting systems and so forth... A period of time during which that deal will be implemented."
Commenting, Pat McFadden MP, leading supporter of Open Britain, said:
"These comments show that reality is beginning to bite. Ministers know that our economy and public services will continue to need immigration from inside and outside the EU in the future. The pity is that they could not have been more honest with the public about this until now.
"Ministers should now drop the target of reducing immigration to the tens of thousands. They know they won't achieve it without doing damage to the economy, and it is time they acknowledged this.
"The vast majority of people who come to the UK come to work hard and make a positive contribution to the country.
"The Government should be aiming for a deal that protects jobs and living standards in our country, that allows us to meet our needs and grow in the future. That will require the courage to face down the more ideological of the Brexiteers, and a conscious decision to put economic strength first in the negotiations to come.”
Notes to editors:
Open Britain and The Independent are jointly campaigning for the Government to drop their target of cutting annual net migration to the tens of thousands: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/drop-the-target-campaign-net-migration-immigration-cap-tens-of-thousands-petition-eu-brexit-a7664156.html