The date of the UK’s departure from the European Union is alarmingly close. Partner Pat Saini, the firm’s head of immigration, reflects on events and announcements of the last few weeks and the current mood of employers and education providers.
I attended a round table event last week with employers and education providers who are preparing for Brexit. Discussions centred around stockpiling, the shortage of lorry drivers in the UK and of course, talent.
In respect of talent, those around the table remained confident that EU nationals currently in the UK would be allowed to stay and that businesses would be allowed time to plan for people mobility.
The expectation remained that:
Discussions at the round table turned to UK employers who need to send British nationals on long term assignments to EU countries, and when announcements could be expected that will clarify, for example, the rules around sending a British national on a two year assignment to France.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made it clear that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October 2019 “no ifs, no buts”. Businesses and education providers have been comforted by the fact that the he had also continued to provide assurances that EU nationals currently in the UK will have the “absolute certainty of the right to live and remain [in the U.K.]"
Fast forward to the weekend of 17 August and the press was full of stories suggesting that the Home Secretary Priti Patel had signalled that freedom of movement will come to an end overnight from 31 October 2019 in the event on a no deal Brexit.
Both employers and education providers have again been left wondering what will happen on 1 November and what immigration system EU nationals intending to work or study in the UK will have to apply under, as there had been no announcements on a new or even a temporary immigration system being put in place from 1 November 2019.
Sensing the concern, the Home Office published a media factsheet seeking to counter reports that EU citizens will left in ‘legal limbo’ in a no deal scenario. It states:
What the factsheet fails to address is the 'black hole' that will be created on 1 November. The questions which remain unanswered include:
All these and others are practical scenarios that UK businesses and UK education providers are grappling with daily. They don’t have time to wait for the PM to instruct the MAC to advise on, for example, an Australian Style Points Based system.
The Government needs to take immediate steps to set out its plans or revert to the previous government’s plans for EU nationals who wish to stay longer than three months to apply to temporary leave.
In the absence of formal advice from the Government on this point, my team has been advising institutions to take a practical approach and where possible those EU nationals who are already resident in the UK (or will be by 31 October) should consider applying for status under the EU settlement scheme before they travel after 31 October.
Those needing to send British nationals to EU countries on assignments after 31 October should ensure that they obtain advice on which immigration rules could apply in each EU country.
Above all, organisations need to make sure they know who their staff are, where they currently are, and where they intend to be working after 31 October 2019.