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Brexit – UK Government proposes a framework for mobility

30 July 2018

The UK Government’s much hyped and debated White Paper on ‘The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union’ was published on 17 July 2018. It will form the basis of the UK’s Brexit negotiating position and contains proposals for a “Framework for mobility” between the UK and EU.

From the outset, the section of the White Paper dealing with mobility makes clear that the free movement of people will end. However, the rest of the section sets out numerous caveats and exceptions aimed at maintaining many of the benefits of cross-border mobility that EU and UK citizens currently enjoy.



The White Paper sets out the UK Government’s proposals for a ‘framework for mobility’ that should apply after the intended Brexit transition period - ie its proposed rules from January 2021 onwards. While the proposals are fairly broad, happily, there is nothing in the White Paper that overrides or contradicts previous proposals on EU workers’ rights during the intended Brexit transition period or the proposed procedures for applying for ‘settled status’.  

Although final proposals and details on the UK’s future immigration system will not be published until after the Migration Advisory Committee’s report due out in September 2018, it is clear that the Government is keen to preserve labour market flexibility between the UK and the EU. This is to be achieved through reciprocal mobility arrangements with the EU (similar to WTO GATS commitments that are commonly part of trade agreements which cover services). These reciprocal arrangements are intended to cover:

  • Visa-free travel for short-term business reasons (but limiting paid work to clearly defined circumstances)
  • Intra-corporate transfers allowing UK and EU-based companies to train staff, move them between offices and plants and to deploy expertise where it is needed
  • Temporary mobility of scientists and researchers, self-employed professionals, employees providing services
  • Streamlined border arrangements and administrative procedures “that ensure smooth passage for UK nationals when they travel to the EU, for example on business or on holiday” (similar to the current Registered Traveller Schemes that are already in place with a number of non-EU countries)
  • The mutual recognition of professional qualifications held by UK and EU nationals
  • Reciprocal arrangements on some defined elements of social security coordination (eg aggregation principles for people who have contributed into multiple countries’ state pension systems)
  • Continued use of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) by UK and EU nationals
  • A UK-EU youth mobility scheme and continued UK-EU access to allow students the chance to attend each other’s world-leading universities
  • Reciprocal visa-free travel arrangements to enable UK and EU citizens to continue to travel freely for tourism.



At first sight it might be easy to see these as rather “have cake and eat it” proposals but, if achieved, such arrangements would still be far less flexible than the current cross-border rules within the EU. Therefore, there is a reasonable chance that most of these proposals will be agreed if the EU takes a pragmatic approach to the Brexit negotiations. Of course, if there is no final deal, then we will not even have transitional arrangements in place from March 2019 and UK-EU staffing issues will become considerably more complex overnight.

For help and advice on any international assignment issue, please contact Karen McGrory.


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