02nd August 2017

Brexit: Free Movement Between EU and UK To End March 2019

Government ministers have announced that freedom of movement between the EU and UK will end in March 2019.

Until the Government have introduced a permanent post-Brexit policy, EU workers wishing to move to the UK will be required to register.

Amber Rudd the Home Secretary has tried to reassure businesses that this will not cause a “cliff edge” in employing foreign workers post Brexit.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) noted that businesses “urgently” needed to know what EU migration would look like in the “transitional” March 2019 period and beyond.

The Home Secretary stated the new policy created would be evidence-based and take into account any economic impact. During the EU referendum campaign, immigration was a central topic on which ministers had promised to “take back control” of UK borders whilst negotiating Brexit.

The UK is expected to leave the EU at the end of March 2019 however there have been increasing talks of a “transitional” or “implementation” stage of approximately 2 years to smooth the Brexit process.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Brandon Lewis - the Home Office minister - spoke of how the immigration bill would go through parliament in 2018 and that details on government managing immigration after Brexit would be revealed later this year. He further commented that it was a “simple matter of fact” that EU free movement rules would no longer apply from 2019.

During a visit to Troon, South Ayrshire the Home Secretary promised that an “extensive” consultation would be conducted listening to the views of businesses, universities and unions. She also reaffirmed that the “implementation phase” would involve new EU workers registering their details when entering the UK.

The Migration Advisory Committee has also been asked by the Home Office to study the “economic and social costs and benefits of EU migration to the UK economy” also addressing its impact on competitiveness and whether there would be benefits to focusing on migration on high skilled jobs.

The Committee is expected to report back on the matter 6 months before Brexit in September 2018.

Ms Rudd has stated “we will ensure we continue to attract those who benefit us economically, socially and culturally.” She also acknowledged that “at the same time, (the) new immigration system will give control of the volume of people coming (to the UK) - giving the public confidence we are applying our own rules on who we want to come to the UK and helping us to bring down net migration to sustainable levels.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in Sydney that he was aware of the report that had been commissioned and added that immigration had been “fantastic for the energy and dynamism of the economy” but that did not mean it couldn’t be controlled.

For Labour, Dianne Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary commented that there was “far too much heat and not enough light about immigration, so any truly objective and well informed analysis must be welcomed.”

Ms Abbot also raised concerns about the timescale given to the Migration Advisory Committee to produce the report saying “six months before Brexit will not be enough time to structure a new immigration system.”

Sir Ed Davey, Lib Dem home affairs spokesman said the move would “do nothing to reassure the hospitals that are already seeing record numbers of EU nurses leaving or the companies struggling to recruit the staff they need.” He also added that “the NHS, businesses and universities that depend on European citizens need answers now, not in another 14 months’ time.”

The CBI commented that the commission of the report was a “sensible step” and that “workers across Europe strengthen our businesses and help our public services run more smoothly - any new migration system should protect these benefits while restoring public confidence.”

Yvette Cooper, Labour MP and chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee said it was “staggering” that it had taken the Government a year since the EU referendum to commission the report.

On BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Richard Tice the Co-Chairman of Leave Means Leave commented that the “commission should be reporting by this Christmas, not by next September. It is completely unacceptable for this to drag… the government needs to rapidly accelerate this.”

EEF the Manufacturers’ Organisation stated that the migration committee was “best placed to advise on how and what EU migration should look like post Brexit.

Both the CBI and EEF have called for an immediate resolution on the question of the status of EU nationals that already live in the UK.

Mark Benton, Immigration Solicitor comments:

“We need some certainty on government plans. There have been a lot of rumours and conflicting reports since the vote to leave the EU and the uncertainty surrounding the future and rights of EU migrants serves only to breed fear.

“We’ve seen a massive spike in enquiries from EU citizens and this is punctuated each time a new article or report is released. Most recently we’ve had talk of those who obtain Permanent Residency (settlement) having to essentially re-apply for a “settled status” after Brexit.

“Naturally people are concerned, and so we’re dealing with a lot of enquiries regarding the best options in terms of securing status in the UK. From a legal perspective, the rights of EU migrants remain unchanged for now.

“The idea of this ceasing in March 2019 is accurate – the reality is that once we are out of the EU all associated membership rights will end. It is not possible to implement a new immigration system before this and in truth it is unlikely to be possible to implement anything to line up with Brexit.

“The transitional arrangements alluded to in the article seem most likely in law – and there is precedent for this type of system as the Immigration Rules (those governing all non-EU migrants) changed drastically in 2012, with transitional arrangements put in place for individuals who were part way through the immigration process (those with leave to remain but without settlement).

“Registration” is a nebulous term in this context – the assumption would be that EU migrants after March 2019 will need to apply for visas in either the same (or at least, a similar) manner to all non-EU migrants. Part of that process is providing biometric information (currently not required) and so it is likely that that is what the Home Office mean by registration.

“The reality with all this though is that we simply do not know. As stated, there has been no legal change to the rights of EU workers yet and there will continue to be conjecture until a new system is up and running (a system that no doubt will be litigated upon extensively in the years following implementation. The best anyone can do is protect themselves as much as possible in the current system, and hope that this translates favourably into the new system.”

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