Brexit and immigration: the implications

On June 23, the U.K. public voted to leave the European Union.Brexit and immigration: the implications As a result, concerns have been raised around the possible changes to U.K. immigration policy and the potential impact on both EU nationals working in the U.K., and Brits working and residing in EU member states. It’s important to note that immigration insights and consequences on business migration are speculative in nature at this point in time. 

The principle of free movement 

Once the formal process of separation commences under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the U.K. has two years to complete the separation process.  

The topic of immigration is not simple and it will take time for a solution to be developed and implemented. The free movement of workers within the EU, guaranteed by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is not expected to change during the separation. Therefore, in the short term, the EU free movement principle is not expected to change. 

Post-Brexit immigration framework 

If restrictions are imposed in the future as part of negotiations, the U.K.'s current points-based system could act as a framework for the new immigration approach. EU nationals are likely to be included in the current system or transformed to a similar model, inspired by different points-based criteria existing in other countries (Australia or Canada). 

From the existing system in the U.K., the Tier 2 skilled worker category (assessing professional skills and levels of English) could be implemented or modified for skilled EU workers. Alternatively, we may see the launch of the Tier 3 visa route, with a view to controlling low-skilled migration to the U.K. (from both inside and outside of the EU). 

Supporting foreign workers staying in the U.K.

Current EU passport holders residing in the U.K. benefit from the free movement principle based upon their nationality. Should residents wish to document and administratively “support” their actual status in the U.K., several existing solutions are likely to be considered: 

Processing times for the above applications are likely to increase in current circumstances.

How can businesses prepare for the separation? 

Although a solution needs to be developed, legislatively adopted and maintained afterwards, we recommend you consider the following areas:

  • In the future, EU nationals might require a certain type of work/residence permit/labor registration to legally live and work in the U.K.. Individuals already residing in the U.K. could look to the above options to support their stay
  • U.K. employers and companies basing their workforce program on EU nationals can look at their employees’ skill-set, and begin to design internal programs for development and transferring knowledge to British citizens – or those with the right to remain in the U.K. 
  • Consider your people/skill-set strategy – particularly for employees on lower salaries. Immigration policies may apply the existing non-EU immigration rules to EU citizens, therefore meeting a minimum salary requirement

Finally, it is important to note that we cannot predict the future of U.K./EU immigration policy design and its impact on foreign workers (as well as Brits living and working in another EU member state). All future-state analysis is based on speculative comments. 

However, what is certain, is that companies should begin working on their workforce strategies to increase the skill-set of local citizens and support employees with the enhanced administrative formalization of their stay in the U.K. (past or present).