In the 12 December 2019 United Kingdom general election, the electorate gave the Conservative party a substantial majority. This makes it almost certain that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be passed by parliament (although it is not certain that this can be achieved by 31 January 2020 without a further extension) and all but eliminates the risk of a cliff-edge no-deal Brexit with no transition period.
On 17 Oct 2019, the Government of the United Kingdom and the EU Council agreed a modified Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. However, on 19 Oct 2019, the UK Parliament voted to force the UK Government to request another extension of the Article 50 period.
On 22 Oct 2019, parliament voted to take forward the government's Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which must be approved before the Withdrawal Agreement can be ratified in the UK, but voted against the government's fast-track timetable for scrutinizing the bill.
On 28 October 2019, the EU agreed a new ‘flextension’ of the Article 50 period: until 31 January 2020, with the option of the UK leaving earlier if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified in time.
What Happens Next?
If the withdrawal agreement bill is fully ratified by 31 January 2020, and the UK leaves the EU as the government plans, free movement will continue until the end of the transition period (31 December 2020 unless extended).
At the end of the transition period, free movement will likely end (depending on the nature of the future relationship yet to be agreed between the UK and the EU, and the UK’s planned future immigration system (see below).
All EU citizens arriving in the UK before 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to register their residence, through the EU Settlement Scheme.
Family members in a relationship with the EU citizen before the end of the transition period will be able to join those with settled status at any future date.
The rights of UK nationals resident in the EU before the end of the transition period (31 December 2020, unless extended), and of their family members, will be similarly protected, though registration schemes will vary between members states.
Future Immigration System
The Conservative government has announced that it intends to implement, from 1 January 2021, an “Australian-style points-based immigration system”, without clarifying how this would work in practice. Most Australian work visas are issued through employer-sponsored (non-points-based) routes.
The proposed future immigration system will end freedom of movement for EU citizens and consists of three main categories:
- ‘Exceptional talent / contribution’ – minor amendments to the existing Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa.
- ‘Skilled workers’ - workers who have a confirmed job offer (as for non-EU nationals currently but unlike Australian points-based visas) and who meet the criteria of the points-based system (details unconfirmed). Certain types – such as an “NHS Visa” – will also receive fast-track entry and reduced fees.
- ‘Sector-specific rules-based’ – specific temporary schemes such as for low-skilled labour, youth mobility or short-term visits, based on expert advice form the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
The government’s stated goals will be “to get net migration down while addressing emerging gaps in the labour market”.
What You Can Do Now
- Ensure all UK employees residing in an EU member state, and EU citizens resident in the UK, and their family members, have submitted registration applications (where applicable) by Brexit day.
- Affected employees should gather documents in support of possible future immigration applications.
- Be prepared for longer, more complex immigration application requirements in any post-Brexit scenario and, if possible, bring forward any planned assignments between the UK and the EU.
- See our latest Brexit information collected here.
- Contact a Newland Chase immigration specialist for case-specific advice.