Published: July 2017Contents
i) What are the hot topics?
In the UK and Europe, the UK’s exit from the European Union is attracting the attention of almost everyone living and working in the EU. The outcome of the ongoing negotiations will have far-reaching implications beyond the EU. Key considerations are what rights will be afforded to EU nationals and their family members currently living in the UK, and those UK nationals living in EU members states. The question of whether anyone will be required to return to their home country if they are not deemed to be a “qualifying person” is of particular concern. Beyond the date of the UK’s exit, whether any freedom of movement of workers will continue in the UK will be of relevance to businesses operating across the EU, particularly those non-EEA nationals working in the UK under the Van der Elst provisions.
ii) Tell us about any key legal developments – recent or pending – and their international impact
The issues that are currently being negotiated between the UK Government and the EU institutions will involve immigration law changes in both the UK and the EU. In July 2017, the UK Government proposed a new “EU Settled” status which will, if agreed in negotiations, bring EU nationals currently residing in the UK under UK immigration laws. How the remaining issues on, for example, free movement of workers, are negotiated is of significant interest to any corporate wishing to operate in the single market as well as in the UK due to the potential for increased restrictions on trans-European working. It is clear that the great “Repeal Bill” will not incorporate the Free Movement Directive into UK law, which almost certainly predicts a great shift in immigration laws.
The recent changes to the UK immigration laws, effective from April 2017, have further restricted inward migration of workers to the UK. The introduction of the Immigration Skills Charge, the increase in minimum salary requirements and the closure of the short-term intra-company transfer route places an ever-increasing burden on global companies seconding employees to the UK.
iii) What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for practitioners and clients?
Without question, the Brexit negotiations on EU nationals’ rights in the UK are the main focus for immigration practitioners in the UK and across Europe. Practitioners globally are also watching developments for their clients looking to do business in the single market. Whilst there are opportunities for UK practitioners to increase their client base with a surge of EU nationals looking to cement their permanent residence in the UK and naturalise as British citizens, this is a difficult area on which to inform clients with an almost daily changing landscape. The lack of certainty is causing much anxiety from which practitioners cannot provide guarantees.
After the UK’s exit from the EU in 2019, it is possible that any increase in restrictions for EU nationals coming to work in the UK will result in immigration lawyers being called upon in ever greater numbers to navigate the, presumably, complicated immigration laws that may be in force. Much depends upon how strongly the UK Government resists any form of free movement for EU workers in the UK.