- Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has been criticised for claiming that leaving the EU will give the UK more control over how many foreign footballers are in the Premier League.
- Barclay on Thursday said Brexit will give Britain greater say over whether to recruit more English players or instead those from Africa and South America.
- Labour’s David Lammy said Barclay was telling a “facile and bare-faced lie” while the Lib Dems accused the Brexit Secretary of talking “absolute nonsense.”
- The Premier League has said there is “no evidence” that reducing the number of foreign players in the Premier League would improve the quality of the England football team.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has been accused of talking “absolute nonsense” after claiming that leaving the European Union will give Britain more control over how many foreign footballers are in the Premier League.
Barclay on Thursday said that leaving the EU under the terms of Boris Johnson’s deal with Brussels would allow the UK to decide whether it wanted more English footballers or instead more players from Africa and South America.
He also suggested that being in the EU has restricted the ability of Premier League clubs to recruit homegrown players.
The Premier League is the UK’s highest football division and is comprised of clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Arsenal.
“People don’t always put football and our new Brexit deal together unless it’s Gary Lineker going on about Remain again,” Barclay said in a video posted on Twitter on Thursday evening.
“But one of the things about taking control of our immigration is we can decide, do we want more English qualified players in the Premier League, which is what the FA [Football Association] is keen to see. Or do we want more talented players from Brazil, Africa, Argentina and elsewhere in the world, as the Premier League are keen to see.”
He added: “So we’ll actually have much more say as to where we recruit players from.
“Do it on talent, rather than it being because they’re in Europe as opposed to the rest of the world and as a result, we can have a look at having more English qualified players for the England team, but also look at the best players from Brazil, Argentina, Africa and elsewhere, and make sure we are getting the best players into this Premier League.”
Labour’s David Lammy accused Barclay of telling a “facile and bare-faced lie” and pointed out that EU membership does not affect the UK’s control of immigration from Africa and South America.
Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, tweeted that Barclay’s comments showed how far the Conservatives “have divorced themselves from reality.”
The Liberal Democrat’s Tim Farron said Barclay was talking “absolute nonsense.”
He told Business Insider: “If anything, the Tories’ immigration policy to halt freedom of movement will make life harder and disincentivise those wanting to move here.”
He added: “It is time Stephen Barclay stopped playing fantasy football and woke up to the realities of Brexit.
“The Liberal Democrats know that freedom of movement is overwhelmingly positive, and that is why we will continue to lead the fight to stop Brexit and build a brighter future.”
Naomi Smith, CEO of anti-Brexit group Best For Britain, said: “This is yet another own goal from the Brexit secretary. We already have full control over immigration from Africa and South America.
“This is nothing to do with the EU — he’s blaming them for choices made by the UK.”
The FA is committed to reducing the number of foreign players in the Premier League, regardless of whether Britain leaves the EU. It wants the maximum number of non-homegrown players per squad to be reduced from 17 to 13.
The FA believes this will increase the number of English players in the league and improve the England football team.
Business Insider has contacted the Premier League for a response to Barclay’s remarks.
In 2016, the Premier League said it opposed to the FA’s proposals because “there is no evidence that stronger quotas than exist now would have a positive impact on national teams.”
The Premier League also warned that enforcing stricter rules on the number foreign players in the league after Brexit risked reducing the quality of teams and damaging the league’s global brand.
“We approach this matter in the interests of British football as a whole and have held positive discussions with the EFL and the Scottish Professional Football League, who both agree that Brexit should not be used to weaken playing squads in British football, nor to harm clubs’ ability to sign international players,” it said.
“Away from playing squads, it is important to recognise the global interest in the Premier League and in our clubs when they compete in the FA and Carabao Cup competitions, and the wider positive impact on the UK of having a successful Premier League.
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“Our competition is watched in 189 countries, 700,000 visitors to the UK per season attend a match, clubs employ 12,000 full-time staff and Premier League football generates £3.3bn per season in taxes.”
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