UK Post-Brexit Transition Plan Details Emerge Except on Immigration

Background: On June 23, 2016, a majority of voters in the UK opted for the country 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 March 29, 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 March 29, 2019 to reach an agreement on the separation.

Current Status: While the European Union (EU) and United Kingdom (UK) negotiate the details of the transition period post Brexit, the UK is developing its plan on key policies following the transition.  The EU has proposed the transition period to apply from the exit date of March 29, 2019 to no later than December 31, 2020. During the transition, the UK would follow all EU regulations and the free movement of people would continue during that period.

The UK is now also looking beyond the Brexit transition period, when the UK will immediately deviate from the EU on policy.  The outline of a draft plan has the UK diverging in three key areas which include trade policies, the regulation of financial services and agricultural subsidies.  Another key area which is being discussed is the free movement of individuals between the UK and EU.  The details are still emerging on the plan, but European Council President Donald Tusk has denounced the principles of the plan as reported in the press.  Tusk and UK Prime Minister Theresa May will meet on March 1 with May scheduled to make a speech on the plan on March 2.

While the details of the post-Brexit plan are emerging, the release of the UK white paper on immigration after Brexit has been delayed.  On February 14, the UK House of Commons Home Affairs Committee issued a report critical of the white paper’s delay, calling into question the ability of the Home Office to implement a post-Brexit immigration system without clarity on the status of EU nationals.  The white paper will provide immigration details on both the transition phase and post-transition period.  May has stated recently that EU nationals who arrive in the UK during the transition period will not have the same rights as those nationals who arrived prior to Brexit.  The Chair of the Home Office Committee, Yvette Cooper, has stated the Office does not have the time and capacity to implement changes.  The Home Office is responsible for handling visas implementing immigration policy, as well as securing the UK borders.

How this will impact mobility: Brexit will likely result in the curbing of free movement of workers between the UK and the EU.  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.

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