On 26 September, Newland Chase’s Annette Wright, UK Immigration Director, and Marc Smith, Immigration Consultant, presented their webinar "Racing to Brexit: Six Months to Go" – where they discussed how company HR and mobility managers can prepare their UK and EU employees for the fast-approaching official Brexit day on 29 March 2019. In this session, they shed some much needed light on the events of the last two years, where we are now, and what lies ahead. Included was the status of current plans for EU nationals in the UK, current plans for UK nationals in the EU, potential coming changes from the recently released MAC report, and practical steps to take right now.
Global Legal Analyst, Kent O’Neil, got a chance to catch up with Annette at her office in London as she prepared for the webinar. They chatted on the subject at hand and Annette’s career path in the global mobility industry.
Kent: “I believe this webinar is setting records for number of attendees registered. I understand you’ve had to schedule a second session to accommodate everyone. Do you think it’s yours and Marc’s names on the marquee? Or just the topic this month?”
Annette: (laughing) “I don’t think it’s me… it might be Marc. But I’m sure it has something to do with the topic. With six months to go to the Brexit date… it’s certainly on everyone’s minds. Both here in the UK, the EU, and elsewhere for companies with business in Europe.”
Kent: “I know I registered early when I saw the topic. Seems like just yesterday… but it’s been over two years now… we were all watching coverage and madly scanning the net dumbfounded the morning after the Brexit referendum. Just trying to get our heads around what it would mean that the UK was leaving the EU. And I’ve obviously followed developments now for two years… and I still don’t feel I understand all the implications.”
Annette: “To be honest, I don’t think anyone has all of the ramifications worked out… some we unfortunately may not see for years… and much of the actual detail is still up in the air with the negotiations between the UK and the EU coming down to the wire. But...
"We are getting a clearer picture now on a lot of the freedom of movement and immigration aspects. That’s why we chose to do this webinar now… to try to bring some degree of certainty and assurance for companies and their EU employees in the UK and their UK employees in the EU.”
Kent: “I know a lot of the controversy lately has been over trade and single market issues, the Irish border, etc… but you’re saying that some of the future immigration aspects are being ironed out? That should be welcomed news for all those EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU who’ve been on “pins and needles” through all this.”
Annette: “Definitely. That’s really what it’s about fundamentally for Marc and I – trying to bring some peace of mind and practical guidance that can relieve some of that stress. While there is a significant piece of road still ahead in this crazy “race to Brexit”… some of the direction is getting clearer when it comes to UK and EU nationals that are living and working in the respective countries. So we’ll be focusing as much as we can on those practical steps that they and their employers can take now, especially using the “settled status” registration system… and maybe just a little speculation on the MAC report, Tier 2 visas, and where we think UK immigration is going.”
Like most mobility industry professionals, Annette cannot remember a time saying, “When I grow up, I wanna be a UK immigration expert.” But she does recall wanting to be a doctor… but then deciding she didn’t want to “open anybody”… so forensics looked like the direction she would go… which led to an interest in law… which led to a job right out of school in the UK’s Home Office, where she became the youngest manager in the Croydon office.
“I worked for a while as a presenting officer,” recalls Annette. “It was one of the worst jobs I had. I was the one who had to deliver the bad news of why someone or their spouse or children couldn’t get a visa. I received a thorough introduction to the negative side of immigration.” So when she got the chance to move into the central office as a trainer, she jumped at the chance. “As a trainer, I was able to do things to help improve the system… make things better for people. I still appreciate that experience as a presenting officer though, because it taught me empathy for people and best how to help them.” After eleven years at the Home Office, in 2003, she brought her empathy for people and her insider’s experience and insight on the UK immigration system to Newland Chase, where she has been passionately helping clients overcome their immigration challenges ever since.
Kent: “You’ve given me so much information I won’t be able to include in this blog piece. I’ll just plug the webinar one more time for our readers… even if you’ve gotten your fill of Brexit coverage in the media, you won’t want to miss this one. Solid, practical advice and action steps you need now. So… I’ll just finish up with my standard interview question: Annette, if tomorrow you win the UK lottery’s Thunderball jackpot and I can’t find you in the London office… where are you?”
Annette: “You’d probably have a hard time finding me. I’m not sure where in the world I’d be. I’d be traveling for at least a year… but it might take longer. My husband, my eight-year-old son, and I would probably start off in Europe and visit all of the countries there. Then it would probably be the U.S. west… riding horses… then up into Canada for the mountains and skiing. Then probably off to Australia, New Zealand, then who knows? There is just so much of the world I’d want to see and share with my family. No boundaries, limits, or time constraints. That should keep us busy for a while.”
Watch the webinar “Racing to Brexit: Six Months to Go” here.