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U.K. can't 'cherry-pick' on E.U. single-market access, labor groups say

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(Reuters) — Britain will find it hard to retain access to the European Union's single market without accepting its rules on freedom of movement, the International Labour Organization chief and trade union leaders said Monday.

Britain's shock referendum vote to leave the E.U. has upset financial markets, but leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson said on Monday Britain would continue to have access to the single market while restricting immigration from the E.U..

"To believe that you can have your cake and eat it or you can cherry-pick the bits you want but dispense with the rest, I think that's unlikely to wash very well with some of our European partners," Guy Ryder, secretary general of the ILO, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.

"Access to the market is something that is very important for the future health of the economy," he said, adding that Switzerland's experience showed it was not easy.

While Norway is part of the single market via a trade deal with the E.U., fellow non-E.U. member Switzerland has access only to parts of the single market.

Norway's deal means it has to accept free movement of E.U. nationals and the E.U.'s single market regulations without having a say in them. Switzerland is struggling to renegotiate arrangements on free movement following a binding referendum demanding limits.

The free movement of people was one of the main issues in Britain's referendum, with Brexiteers arguing that leaving the E.U. would allow Britain to take back control of its immigration policy.

Mr. Johnson said Britain could forge a relationship with the E.U. based on free trade and partnership rather than a federal system, and that Britain would also be able to do free trade deals with growing economies outside the E.U.

"British people will still be able to go and work in the E.U.; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes and to settle down," Mr. Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

But Luca Visentini, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, told Reuters it was unlikely that Britain would achieve "so much flexibility and so many advantages."

"The risk is really to have a domino effect, not only in social terms but also in terms of launching other stupid referendum ideas in other European countries," he said.

Oliver Roethig, regional secretary of the European Services Workers Union, said not having access to the E.U. single market would mean a shift of high-skilled and medium-skilled jobs to Europe from Britain.

For more of Business Insurance's ongoing coverage of the historic 'Brexit' vote, click here.