Happy New Year! Wishing you all the very best.
At the beginning of this decade, the UK has agreed a ‘deal’ to leave the European Union (EU) and whilst we are sure that you are all bored of hearing the “B” word, we thought it would be worth a little update about … Breakfast. Just kidding, Brexit.
So where are we?
The Withdrawal Agreement has passed the UK and European Parliaments and the UK will leave the EU on 31 January 2020. In respect of free movement, little will change as the existing rules will remain in place during the transition period until January 2021. It will only be after the transition period that the free movement of people will end and that new EU entrants will need a ‘visa’ and permission to live in the UK.
For those EU citizens who began living in the UK before 31 December 2020, they can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme (the Scheme) which is a Home Office initiative designed to help EU citizens continue to live in the UK after Brexit. It is believed that there are about 3.6m EU citizens living in the UK who are eligible to apply for the Scheme, but by December 2019 only 2.7m had applied.
The Scheme allows applicants to make an application, providing they live in the UK prior to the 31 December 2020, and apply by 30 June 2021, as follows:
- Settled Status – This option is open to EU citizens who have lived in the UK for 5 years or more and will provide the successful applicant the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely after Brexit.
- Pre-settled Status – This option is open to EU citizens who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years and will allow the successful applicant to reside in the UK for a further 5 years from the date the status is granted.
What will the new immigration system look like?
The government released a 170-page white paper in December 2018 which set out the proposals of a new immigration system. All indications are that it will be a point-based system that will have requirements on:-
- qualifications; and
- salary. The minimum threshold potentially being £30,000 (with exemptions).
However, to date, we are still awaiting details of the new immigration system which is due to be announced early 2020.
Commentators are concerned that the new point-based system could impact the UK’s competitiveness and may hinder employer’s ability to hire the staff that they need which will result in staffing shortages. There has therefore been a call that any new system is simple, low cost, fair and user friendly.
The Chartered Institute of Personal Development conducted a survey which was published late last year which found that out of 2,182 employers:
- 58% had no knowledge of the plan to introduce a new skill-based migration system after Brexit; and
- 35% said they knew little about the new system.
The above figures are concerning but not unexpected, given the amount of misinformation regarding Brexit.
Whilst EU migration to the UK is at its lowest since 2013, we recommend that employers of EU nationals encourage and assist them in applying to the Scheme, in order to avoid potential difficulties further down the line.
If you consider that your business is likely to be affected by a skills shortage, you can look to the talent you already have and work on upskilling them, costs permitting. Alternatively, you could look elsewhere, with the migration of non-EU citizens currently being 4.5 times greater than EU migration.
Our final comments would be to keep an open and continuous dialogue for your employees and be ready to take up the changes to the new immigration system (once it is announced), which will likely include visas and Tier 2 and 5 sponsorships and be ready to conduct right to work checks on all employees.
For more information, please visit: Policy paper on citizens' rights in the event of a no deal Brexit