EU citizens and their families living in the UK are understandably nervous, as the final Brexit deal is still very unclear.
As we move closer to the 29th March 2019, the Prime Minister is trying to arrange a deal with the EU. Theresa May’s current proposal is the so-called ‘Chequers deal’, or the ‘Facilitated Customs Arrangement’. It is an effort to solve the Irish Border problem and allow free trade. It involved retaining access to the Single Market despite leaving it. There would be frictionless trade and no border in Ireland, while free movement of people would end. The white paper states that it is “giving the UK back control over how many people enter the country”. There will be a ‘mobility framework’ set up for UK and EU citizens to travel between each other for tourism, study or work.
However, many Conservatives are prepared to rebel over the plan, and some Cabinet Ministers have resigned. There is a lot of ambiguity in the plan, which is not a final plan and may change radically. The EU consider it a non-starter. We continue to assess the situation as it changes and will advise our clients as the plans shift.
There is a possibility that the Chequers deal is rejected in its entirety and we leave the EU with no deal. Experts disagree on what no deal would look like. It would have a huge impact on trade. For ordinary people and EU citizens, it would mean that the mutual recognition of driving licences would end. Phone calls to the EU could become very expensive. A no-deal Brexit would hurt the Pound in the short-term, and could cause a recession in the long-term, which would mean travelling to Europe would be very expensive.
Another possibility is that there will be a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal. This is unlikely, as the Government do not favour such an option. It is not clear what the effect of a People’s Vote would be, but one possibility is that, if the final deal is rejected, the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal, while another possibility is rescinding Article 50. However, it is not clear whether it is legally possible to rescind Article 50 and reverse the decision to leave the EU.
There is a meeting of the European Council on 18th October 2018 where the Prime Minister will try to convince the 27 EU nations of her Brexit plans. If that fails, there is a fall-back Council meeting in December 2018. The plan will then have to be approved in Parliament, not to mention the Parliaments of the 27 EU nations. This is likely to take place in January 2019. There may then be a transition period or implementation period until 31st December 2020, and perhaps even a backstop arrangement until December 2021.
As a result of Brexit, there will need to be a new system for EU citizens who wish to work in the UK. They may need to apply as a Tier 2 skilled worker under the Points Based System. The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that EU citizens will have no automatic right to work after Brexit, although he did not comment on whether highly skilled workers would be able to work without applying for a visa, or whether employers would need a license in order to employ EU citizens. Recently, Jacob Rees-Mogg (who is a popular choice within the Conservative Party to take over from Theresa May) has said that EU nationals will have no more rights than those from outside the EU after Brexit, stating “I do not believe there should be any special terms for EU migrants.”
There are currently about 2.3 million EU nationals working in the UK. Brexit means that EU nationals may need to apply as a Tier 2 skilled worker after we have left the European Union. However, only about 30,000 businesses in the UK have a licence to sponsor Tier 2 applications.
We have much more information about Brexit here and you can read more about Tier 2 applications here. We cannot see the future, so we cannot say for sure whether EU nationals will have to apply under Tier 2. There is currently a cap on the number of Tier 2 migrants that can be accepted. This cap (20,700 per year) is often hit, putting serious pressure on the NHS. This will only grow after Brexit.
Therefore, the rules for non-EEA national skilled workers may change after Brexit, and there may be a special system put in place for EU nationals currently in the UK. Applying Tier 2 visas to EU nationals may be the simplest solution. There has been a concerted effort to reduce the number of Tier 2 visas given by the Government, but if EU nationals were also included, the cap would have to be increased, and the salary requirements may need to be changed too. Further, the licence for businesses to sponsor applications may need to be re-thought, for example having a separate licence for EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals, so that more businesses can sponsor Tier 2 applications. This would lead to more businesses having to deal with the Home Office and could increase delays and hit productivity.
It is therefore to be hoped, that the Government may streamline the skilled workers’ visa process and abandon immigration targets. This has been recommended by the Confederation of British Industry in August 2018, who wrote that companies would prefer targets to be scrapped to ensure they will be able to recruit all the staff that they might need during and after Brexit, and that the current Tier 2 visa system cannot be applied to EU nationals without creating a huge shortfall in medicine and certain other sectors including software engineering.
The Government is to clarify these issues, taking heed of a report by the Migration Advisory Committee in September 2018 (at the time of writing, the report is due to published shortly). Current plans include a ‘settled status’ for EU nationals that have been here for 5 years, and a ‘mobility framework’ set up for UK and EU citizens to travel between each other for tourism, study or work, which is part of the current ‘Chequers deal’. We continue to assess the situation and advise our clients.
Dominik Young, Danielle Cohen Solicitors, 17th September 2018
Read more about Brexit
- Weekly Immigration News Digest 7th – 20th July 2018 (7/20/2018)
- Weekly Immigration News Digest 23rd – 29th June 2018(7/29/2018)
- Weekly Immigration News Digest 16th – 22nd June 2018(6/22/2018)
- Repeal Bill – All You Need to Know (Brexit, The Facts)(7/17/2017)
- New guidelines from the Home Office for EU citizens in the UK(7/4/2017)