The Government has indicated that, without a Brexit deal, free movement will end as soon as the UK leaves the EU on 31 October. Initial plans for a no-deal transition period would be scrapped and it is not clear what other measures would be put in place.
A sudden end to free movement would create significant uncertainty and cost for UK creative organisations looking to hire talented EEA or Swiss citizens, and could create confusion around the status of those citizens already in the UK who have not yet registered for Settled or Pre-Settled Status to remain. We have urged government to avoid this cliff-edge scenario and to ensure that access to creative talent is not needlessly disrupted for UK organisations. Although experts have advised that this cliff-edge scenario is unlikely to materialise, it is important to be prepared for any eventuality.
It is not immediately clear how the government could legally end free movement immediately after Brexit, but the risk should nevertheless be taken seriously. Ian Robinson, a Partner at the immigration law firm Fragomen LLP is advising employers and individuals on how to plan for a no deal. Their recommendations for employers include:
- Moving EEA or Swiss nationals to the UK before exit day, wherever possible. They would still benefit from free movement rights and under current policy would be able to register for Pre-Settled Status and ultimately stay in the UK permanently, so long as the requirements for Settled Status are met after five years.
- Speaking to their employees to explain their residency rights post-Brexit, including if no deal is agreed. It is sensible to plan communications against government milestones over the next two years, for instance ahead of or shortly after Brexit on 31 October 2019 and before the deadline for making a Pre-Settled or Settled Status application: 31 December 2020 if there is no deal or 30 June 2021 if a deal is agreed. If your employees are currently unsettled you may wish to write or speak to them sooner rather than later. Information is available on the .gov website and many immigration law firms are already helping with communication planning and delivery.
- Evaluating where their future employment needs lie and what costs, delays and administration they may need to account for if all EEA and Swiss citizens come under the existing non-EU immigration system.
While it is unclear whether the UK can end free movement immediately after a no deal Brexit, it is highly likely that UK nationals will lose their free movement rights in Europe straight away. While some Member States may operate a temporary grace period after no deal, essentially allowing UK nationals to come and go as now, that is unlikely to be the case for every European country. This presents a number of risks, including:
- UK nationals already living in Europe will probably need to make an application to confirm their status. The detail of these policies will differ between countries, as will the window to make an application. Fragomen LLP have made recent announcements by European countries available here.
- UK nationals intending to work in Europe are likely to need work permission, again with different requirements for each country. It would be sensible to move people before Brexit, wherever possible and appropriate. Where it is not possible you should assess the likely cost of securing a permission, whether your candidates would qualify and how long it would take.
As a potential no-deal departure approaches, the Federation will continue to make the case to Government that we must have a second referendum on our EU membership rather than crash out. We will continue to provide updates on the latest Brexit developments and support for our members on the preparations that they should be undertaking.