UK Prime Minister Theresa
May has agreed to maintain the rights of EU citizens on free movement
during the Brexit transition period. The
transition period is the timeframe of the formal exit of the UK from the EU,
which occurs on 29 March 2019, through finalization of the complete exit which
is scheduled to occur on 31 December 2020. May agreed to the deal to ensure the UK maintains membership in the EU
single market and customs union during the transition period.
The agreement on free movement
will allow EU nationals who arrive in the UK during the transition period to
have the same rights as those nationals who arrived prior to Brexit. The same will hold true for UK nationals who
arrive in the EU during that timeframe. Also, under the agreement, the UK will have the right to negotiate its
own trade deals which May had sought as part of the compromise.
While the agreement has settled
the status of UK and EU citizens during the transition period, it has also created
confusion as to their post-transition status. On 20 March, 14 UK members of European Parliament sent a letter to UK
Secretary David Davis requesting clarification of what the agreement means for
EU and UK citizens living abroad after Brexit. The issue will be addressed during negotiations on Brexit which will
occur starting in April.
On 23 June 2016, a majority of voters in the UK opted for the UK
to leave the EU. By a margin of 51.9% to
48.1%, UK voters supported the referendum known as “Brexit.” Then-UK Prime
Minister Cameron, who advocated for the UK to remain part of the EU, resigned
shortly thereafter and Theresa May was selected to replace him. On 29 March 2017, the UK triggered the
Article 50 process, which outlines the withdrawal of a country from the
EU. The UK and EU now have until 29
March 2019 to reach an agreement on the separation.
Brexit will likely result in the curbing of free movement of
workers between the UK and the EU after the transition period. This would have a direct impact on the
ability to transfer employees between the UK and much of the rest of
Europe. There are also broader
implications regarding Brexit, which could result in businesses relocating
offices and employees between the UK and EU.