For employers - What Brexit means for freedom of movement and immigration

06/04/17

As an employer what does Brexit mean for you and your HR department? Are there any changes in freedom of movement? Can you still employ EU nationals? We try to answer all the questions concerning immigration and you.

So what happens now?

Formal notice has now officially been given to exit the EU with the triggering of Article 50. There is now a minimum period of 2 years before the UK finalises its exit negotiations. If this period is not extended (which can only happen with unanimous agreement from all EU member states) then the UK will formally exit the EU on 30 March 2019.


What is the position when we exit?

Any immigration requirements for EEA nationals in the UK will depend on the final trade agreements negotiated, which are still to be decided. The government has indicated that any new immigration arrangements implemented may be a phased process.


What is the position for EU nationals in the UK?

The position will depend on the final trade position negotiated, which is currently unknown. Current rights to remain in the UK are granted under EU law and will remain in place until formal negotiations are agreed or the two year period is finished. Under possible future UK law different groups may be treated differently as below:

5 + years in the UK

EU law allows for a right of Permanent Residence which is widely expected to be replicated for existing EEA migrants under UK law

Less than 5 years in the UK

Currently the position is less clear for this group and further details should be released throughout the negotiations

Arriving post 29th March 2017

The position regarding those arriving after the trigger date remains unclear


What are the possible outcomes?

We expect there to be a phased implementation period so that new methods of working can be introduced on a gradual basis to minimise disruption. Should no agreement be reached, we would default to trading under the terms of the World Trade Organisation. It remains unclear whether the final trade position will contain an agreement that is similar to the EU Freedom of Movement principles.


Can I still employ EU nationals?

Yes, while negotiations are ongoing, EEA  nationals can still work for any employer in any role according to current EU law and as an employer, you are under a duty not to discriminate against workers based on their nationality. If new immigration rules are introduced, a discussion will need to be had to establish if an employee meets the requirements and what impact that might have on their employment status.


What is the position for UK nationals in the EU?

UK nationals will be able to continue to work freely in the EU until a formal exit date. The position of those already living in the EU and those who wish to move post a formal exit is still unclear and will be decided by each country or EU wide depending on the final trade agreements.

Contact us

Lindsey Barras

Partner, PwC United Kingdom

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