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What do the future implications of Brexit mean for your people?

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It has been a turbulent few weeks in British politics as the UK inches closer to an exit from the European Union. Some progress has been made but confusion remains with the timing of the departure, and the basis on which it will take place. There is still a lot of uncertainty to what will happen next.

Despite the continuing uncertainty, the position regarding the rights of EU nationals  to continue to live and work in the UK has been clear for some time.

We also have a broad idea of how the immigration landscape may look when a new regime is introduced in January 2021. As a result, organisations are in a position to communicate with their existing EU workforce about what they need to be doing to regularise their status in the UK. In this briefing, we provide a summary of the latest Brexit developments and explore how the immigration position may vary depending on whether the UK leaves with a deal or with no deal.

The latest Brexit developments

  • The UK government has agreed a deal with the EU.
  • On Saturday 19 October 2019, Parliament voted to withhold approval of the deal until it had been passed into law.
  • On Tuesday 21 October 2019, the Commons Speaker refused a request by government for there to be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote on the deal.
  • As a result, no vote on the deal will take place until the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (“WAB”) has been passed.
  • If government cannot get the WAB through Parliament, the default legal position is for the UK to leave with no deal on 31 October 2019.
  • That position could change if the EU grants an extension until 31 January 2020 per the (unsigned) request which Boris Johnson was required by law to send to the EU.
  • We await a response from the EU who could grant or reject the request or revert with an offer of a shorter or longer deadline as an alternative to 31 January 2020.

EU nationals in the UK

Brexit will ultimately lead to an end, to the free movement of EU nationals entering the UK and UK nationals entering the remaining EU member states.

However, this will not affect EU nationals who are in the UK before the relevant cut-off date as they will be able to regularise their status by obtaining pre-settled or settled status under the new EU Settlement Scheme.

The key question is what is the ‘relevant cut-off date’?

The answer depends on whether the UK leaves the EU with a deal or with no deal.


There will be a transition period until at least 31 December 2020 during which time EU law relating to free movement of people would continue to apply.

No deal

No transition period but the government has confirmed that free movement of people would continue under UK law until the end of 2020.

What about the right to work?

Whilst the immigration position is fairly clear, employers should consider how the right to work position may differ between a deal and a no deal scenario. In both cases, the date on which the employee entered the UK will be critical. The tables below summarises the position (as at 22 October 2019). [2]

The future immigration system

The government has been very clear that it intends to introduce a new immigration regime covering EU nationals [1] from 1 January 2021.  Following an assessment by the Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) on the impact of Brexit on the UK labour market, Theresa May’s government endorsed a White Paper. This gave us a reasonable idea of what the new regime may look like. In particular, it was proposed that EU nationals should not be given preferential treatment over non-EU nationals.

Boris Johnson has gone back to the drawing board and asked the MAC to submit fresh proposals for delivering a system which concentrates on welcoming the ‘brightest and best’ talent from around the world and focuses on sectors where there is a shortage of labour. He would like this system to be based on the model used in Australia.

How can you contribute?

We are producing a collective submission on behalf of our clients and contacts to send to the MAC. If you would like to contribute, our short questionnaire below asks for your feedback on the key questions posed by the MAC. Your contribution will remain anonymous but could help define the future of our immigration framework in the UK.

Contribute to the future of UK immigration

The questionnaire

[1] References to EU nationals in this note include EEA nationals and third-party family members.  It does not include Irish nationals who will continue to benefit from the Common Travel Area agreement in place between the UK and Ireland.

[2] All dates subject to change particularly if the 31 October 2019 deadline is extended.

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