Article:

Brexit: Free-ish movement of workers from 2019 to 2021

26 September 2017

Early in September 2017, a draft Home Office document on proposed restrictions on free movement of workers after Brexit day in 2019 found its way into the press. The proposals have not been denied by the Government and they refer to an “implementation period” that the Prime Minister subsequently proposed in her Brexit speech in Florence.

The document refers to EU nationals coming to the UK after 29 March 2019 (for the proposals on EU nationals already living in the UK see our July 2017 article EU nationals remaining in the UK after Brexit). For those arriving after Brexit day, the document states that during the two-year transitional period they would be entitled to remain in the UK for up to three months without seeking formal permission. Workers seeking to stay longer would need to apply for a Residence Permit and supply details of their employment / self-employment as well as finger prints. Such a permit would last up to two years although it is suggested that permits of up to five years may be available to highly skilled workers who have an employment contract lasting 12 months or more.

Under these permits, the rules relating to workers’ families would be restricted to allowing partners, minor children (that is, under 18) and adult dependent relatives to remain in the UK while ‘extended family members’ would not. In addition, the UK will introduce increased vetting of EU nationals coming to the UK. EU nationals will be required to show their passports (other documents will not be sufficient) and the UK may introduce a similar Electronic System for Travel Authorisation as the USA already uses - EU nationals would be require to apply for authorisation before they travel. Individuals without a job may be required to show that they have the financial means to support themselves in the UK.

 

After 2021

The paper envisages that there will be a wholly new regime for inbound EU nationals after the Brexit implementation period allowing the Government to “control the type and volume of both temporary and permanent migration from the EU”. There is precious little detail on what this might look like; instead the paper says that the Migrant Advisory Committee will consult with employers and advise the Government on suitable new policies.

 

Brexit negotiations

It remains to be seen whether such proposals will satisfy the EU’s desire to protect the rights of EU nationals during the Brexit process or whether they will trigger a similar negative response that it gave to the Government’s July positioning paper. It is also important to remember that UK proposals are just negotiating proposals and the final legal position may be considerably different. While a two-year implementation period seems sensible, we may yet end up with a ‘hard’ and swift Brexit in March 2019.

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