Post-Brexit, free movement of EEA and Swiss nationals will end. This means EEA/Swiss nationals (and their family members) will no longer have an automatic right to live and work in the UK. The UK Government has published a paper, ‘The United Kingdom’s Exit from the European Union: Safeguarding the Position of EU Citizens Living in the UK and UK Nationals Living in the EU’. To read it, click here.
In summary, the following is proposed:
- When the UK leaves the EU, a new residency regime will be implemented for EU nationals living in the UK. Those who wish to stay must apply for appropriate documentation.
- To qualify for ‘settled status’ (the right to permanently remain) an EU national must have either (i) been resident in the UK for five continuous years or (ii) become resident before a cut-off date (yet to be announced), apply for temporary residence and wait until they have been in the UK for five years.
- Those EU nationals who arrive after the cut-off date should have no expectation of guaranteed settled status – they will be allowed to stay for a temporary period whilst a new immigration regime is agreed.
- It is intended that reciprocal arrangements for British Citizens living in EU countries will be put in place.
The timeframe specified by Article 50 for the Brexit negotiations is two years, expiring in March 2019. This may be extended if all parties agree. Until then, the UK is required to adhere to current EU law on free movement.
There will undoubtedly be increased regulation and focus on immigration by the UK Government. There is likely to be some compromise in respect of EEA/Swiss nationals residing in the UK. The consequences of this might include:
- Recruitment and skills shortages.
- British Citizens who currently live or work in an EEA country or Switzerland may have to return to the UK.
- A change to the documents employers may accept demonstrating a person’s right to work in the UK.
At this stage, we cannot be certain what the new immigration regime will be, but there are things that employers can be doing now to put themselves in the best position to be ready for the changes. It is important employers remain agile to embrace opportunities and to mitigate risk. We will keep you updated.