Implications of Brexit for EU Citizens Working in the UK

This relates to the implications of Brexit on European Citizens working in the UK. The British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on March 29, 2017, which paves the way for Britain to initiate the formal two (2) year exit process from the European Union. The British exit from the EU is a complicated process. Therefore, there are quite many questions, whose answer depends on the upcoming negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Accordingly, these negotiations will shape-up the major policy areas after the British exit from EU.

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Brexit Implications for EU Citizens working in the UK
Brexit Implications for EU Citizens Working in the UK

Brexit Implications on EU Citizens Working in the UK

It is expected that major parts of the existing EU law will initially be wrapped into the UK Law under the Great Repeal Bill. Accordingly, Britain will have the freedom to make its own policies on all the touchstone issues inclusive of immigration— which is frequently cited as the primary reason British people voted to leave the European Union in the very first place.

The Future of EU Nationals in Britain

The British PM and her senior cabinet colleagues have repeatedly refused to guarantee the right to remain in the UK to the three (3) million European Union nationals who are presently living in the United Kingdom.

Main Bargaining Chips

The British Trade Minister Liam Fox has described European Union citizens residing in the UK as one of the UK government’s “main bargaining chips” in future negotiations with the EU. Moreover, the British PM Theresa May has stated that Britain would be left “high and dry” in the negotiations if Britain guarantees the rights of EU nationals living in the UK without a reciprocal assurance and arrangement for the United Kingdom nationals residing in the European Union.

Highly Unlikely to Deport EU Citizens

Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that the British Government may undertake any deportation of EU citizens from the United Kingdom after Brexit.

Experts are of the opinion that the British PM intends to exclude EU nationals but only holding this issue back as a bargaining chip. However, this has not only gone down quite badly with the members of the EU, but EU residents living in the UK have also raised many concerns in this regard.


The chances of deporting current EU immigrants en masse are low. Therefore, the British Government is quite prepared to give concessions to the European Union. It does not make any good sense to say during Brexit negotiations, ‘Well British Government will not allow European Union Citizens to stay in the United Kingdom, as such statements would attract reciprocal sanctions on United Kingdom citizens living in the European Union. Moreover, there is a minimal possibility that the British Government would take a short, sharp, biting hard line about removing the rights of EU citizens to work in the United Kingdom.

Guaranteeing Residency Rights

At this point in time, the question of when the British Government would be in the position to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK is quite difficult to answer. The main reasons for this inability are that at present neither the agenda for Brexit negotiations has been agreed, nor the UK and the EU have the same priorities.

Most of the EU countries want a guarantee of European Union residents’ rights in the United Kingdom first and wish to settle the issue as soon as possible. Moreover, they would also prefer to see any progress on the calculation that how much the UK will end up paying the EU on exit. Whereas the UK intends to prefer to get the idea of free trade settled first. Therefore, there is an inherent conflict even over the agenda i.e. which issue should first be resolved!

Now there is no credible information about the possible agenda for Brexit Negotiations, and that will not be fixed until Article 50 is triggered at the very earliest. Officials on both the sides may have plans ready, but these are not in the public domain. Therefore, at present, it is not plausible to say how soon the issue is likely to be resolved.

Tourist Visiting UK from the EU

According to a few experts and analysts, HM’s Home Office might be opting to propose an electronic visa waiver scheme for EU citizens to make it easy for them to visit the UK. Such an arrangement will be quite like the United States electronic visa system which fast-tracks visitors from preferred countries.

Such an arrangement would facilitate tourism and EU citizens visiting the UK would be spending money in the UK’s Consumer Sector but would enable UK’s Government to impose restrictions on immigration of labour from the EU to the UK.

Immigration from EU to the UK

The British PM has vowed to end EU freedom of movement after the Brexit. The policy of Freedom of Movement allows EU citizens to move to, live in and work in European Union member states without required to apply for visas. It is one of the EU’s founding principles. There are quite a few ideas that are being considered to replace freedom of movement after Brexit, and how to regulate the flow of workers from EU into the UK.

The first set of UK ministers who backed Remain tend to support as few restrictions as possible on EU migrants, workers, and people already resident in the European Union. The second set of cabinet ministers is advocating a Free Movement Minus i.e. imposing minimal restrictions on free movement. The Free Movement Minus scenario would not only consist of a cap on EU migrant numbers but also an emergency brake if HM’s Government will notice that too many EU migrants are coming to the UK. The third set of ministers intends to altogether end freedom of movement.

The pro-Brexit ministers expect to end free movement between UK and EU and wish to introduce a work permit system for EU and non-EU citizens. Accordingly, the government would then decide how many European Union citizens it would allow into the United Kingdom every year for taking up a job offer — as the workers from EU would be required to have a job offer. Britain’s cap on migrants from the European Union post-Brexit is going to fluctuate depending on the discretion of the government.

EU Citizens May Need to Apply for UK Visa

There is one proposal now that EU citizens should come through the same work permit channels as non-EU citizens, but such an undertaking could be very costly to implement. Many economists are quite appalled at the thought that that would apply to incomers whether they were citizens of EU or not.
Some preferential deal might be cut for EU citizens during the Brexit negotiation process. Though Theresa May is likely to prefer a work permit system for all; however, there is a need to have concession for EU workers.

Brexit Implications for EU Citizens Working in the UK
Brexit Implications for EU Citizens working in the UK

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    Economic Impact of Brexit for EU Citizens Working in the UK

    The government is considering a sectorial work permit system for incoming EU migrants. Such a measure means that EU labour migrants would be facing different rules depending on the sector they would be working in. Ministers propose to consult businesses and industry on this notion during the summer, and from limited available evidence the UK government looks quite set on favouring such an approach; however, implementation of the scheme could be overly complicated.

    Accordingly, the experts believe that the UK is set on a highly restrictive and complicated system that could be exceedingly difficult to implement.

    Trade Agreements

    The possibility of Britain securing a ‘cake and eat it’ Brexit Deal i.e. Britain leaves the EU and keeps enjoying the benefits of the Union, – looks quite slim if not altogether an unlikely event, according to the latest reports. Instead, cabinet ministers have resigned to accepting compromises for securing better trade agreements with the EU in exchange for a level of sustained political control from Brussels.

    According to experts and reliable sources, Theresa May’s tough stance on Brexit – where the PM publicly said Britain could get a significant free-trade deal with the EU whilst also being able to limit free movement of people from EU – is looking increasingly delicate.
    What is now emerging as more likely is a watering down of one element or another.

    Possible Options

    According to experts, there are only two viable choices in the post-Brexit scenario for Britain:

    1. A high-access, low-control arrangement which may look a bit like the EEA (European Economic Area). For instance, European Economic Area deals allow member countries such as Iceland and Norway to be members of European Union’s single market in return/exchange for accepting free movement while, for example, not signing up to common fisheries policy.
    2. A low-access, high-control arrangement which may eventually end up looking like CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) – a more classic form of a free trade agreement. CETA refers to the recently struck deal between Canada and the EU which will see many import duties on goods between the EU and Canada reduced considerably.

    In the post-election scenario, business voices that were silenced due to political pressures before the elections are recovering and have started raising their voices. Accordingly, the economic arguments that got lost in the last six (6) months are now being heard again!

    Divisions in the Cabinet

    According to Media Reports, Cabinet splits on Brexit have been bubbling up over recent weeks with Brexit Secretary Mr David Davis and Chancellor Mr Philip Hammond clashing.

    Chancellor Hammond is known to aspire to put economic stability ahead of sovereignty while hardline Brexiteers, such as Secretary Davis, believe giving any ground on border controls and immigration would signify as a betrayal of the referendum result.

    Financial Services in London

    The EU is looking forward to taking much of the multi-billion pound euro clearing sector out of London and into Europe. A delegation of business leaders of the City of London is proposed to visit Brussels in the second week of July 2017 to press for a post-Brexit deal on financial services.


    According to the official figures that include the 3 months period after the Brexit vote in June 2016 indicates a big fall of 49,000 in net migration to the UK. This the decrease in net migration from 322,000 to 273,000 is due to a decrease in immigration to the UK. And an increase in emigration from the UK. Immigration fell by 23,000 to reach a level of 596,000; however, emigration increased by 26,000 to reach a level of 323,000 by the end of Sept 2016.

    Net migration after Brexit is a politically sensitive issue!

    The plunge in annual net immigration below 300,000 is the first tangible drop in the politically sensitive figure for more than four (4) years. And it may come as a relief to PM Theresa May, who has recently renewed her target to get it below a hundred thousand (100,000).

    An unexpected fall in the applications by students

    A major component in the sudden and unexpected fall in New Immigration was an estimated forty-one thousand (41,000) drop in the number of international students coming to study in the UK, to hundred and thirty-four thousand (134,000), the lowest level since 2002.
    The bulk of students coming to the UK were from outside Europe – i.e., eighty-seven thousand (87,000), down by thirty-one thousand (31,000). However, according to the ONS, the number of visas issued to non-EU students over the same period had risen by 2%, to reach a level of hundred and forty-one thousand (141,000).

    Increase in applications by EU Citizens for residence documents

    The Home Office figures revealed that the number of EU nationals in Britain who had their applications processed for the UK residence documents to secure their status more than doubled. EU citizens need 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK to qualify for settlement.

    Accordingly, the number of applications increased from 92,289 in Oct 14-Sept 15 to 201,287 in Oct 15-Sept 16. More than 140,000 were successful. The detailed figures show that more than 40,000 applications for British residence documents from EU Citizens and their dependant family members were rejected during Oct 15-Sept 16. A further 19,000 applicants were advised that their applications were invalid.

    Overhauling Application Processing System

    According to media reports, the Home Office is planning to overhaul the application process, i.e., moving it online. Keeping in view the expected quantum of settlement applications from EU Nationals resident in Britain in the coming years, since the Brexit Vote, applying for residence has turned from a niche to a mainstream activity.

    Work Applications during Oct 15-Sept 16

    Work continues to be the primary driver for near-record levels of immigration, especially from within the EU, whose citizens accounted for hundred and eighty thousand (180,000) of the two hundred and ninety-four thousand (294,000) who had come to Britain to work in the year to September 2016.

    Definite Job

    As many as hundred and ninety thousand (190,000) people moving to the UK – the highest ever proportion at 65% – had a definite job to go to, including hundred and thirteen thousand (113,000) from Europe.

    Looking for a Job

    A total of hundred and four thousand (104,000) people, including fifty-one thousand (51,000) from the EU, came looking for a job.

    EU Citizens from Romania and Bulgaria

    Immigration from the EU included a nineteen thousand (19,000) rise in the number of Bulgarians and Romanians coming to live in Britain, to seventy-four thousand (74,000), the highest number in a single year. This was partially offset by a twelve thousand (12,000) increase in the number of Polish Citizens and other Eastern Europeans, who intend to go back home to live.

    Rise in emigration from the UK due to hate crime

    The rise in emigration could be attributed to the highly publicised spike in hate crime during and shortly after the referendum campaign. The number of Eastern Europeans moving from the UK rose by a third, to thirty-nine thousand (39,000).

    Asylum Applications fell by 1,451

    The figures also show the first yearly fall in asylum applications being made in the UK since 2010, with 38,517 claims lodged, a fall of 1,451 over the corresponding previous year. However, during the period, 4,369 refugees were brought to Britain under Syrian Resettlement Scheme.

    Government’s Reaction and Policy Stance

    According to media reports, the Conservative Government is giving a cautious welcome to the drop in net immigration. The drop in net migration is encouraging for the policy stance of the government, but this is only one set of statistics, and the UK Government is not getting carried away. The Government is resolved to continue to make further progress to bring down net migration to tens of thousands.
    The UK Government will continue to reform routes to the UK for non-EU citizens. Additionally, utilising the opportunity to control immigration the EU as it begins Brexit Negotiations in the coming weeks and months. According to the government, the UK will always welcome those immigrants who contribute to and benefit the British Isles; however, there is no consent for uncontrolled immigration either from the EU or outside the EU.

    Fall in Net Migration and Long-Term Trends

    The point of view of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) is that the fall in Net Immigration is not statistically notable. The Head of International Migration Statistics of ONS has the viewpoint that there is a fall in net migration from EU8 citizens (eight Eastern European Countries that joined the EU in 2004), but there is a continued increase in immigration from Bulgaria and Bulgaria. Therefore, it is early to reach any conclusion regarding the effects of the referendum results on the long-term international migration to the UK.

    According to statistics, there has been a significant decrease in non-EU long-term students immigrating to the United Kingdom while a modest increase in the number of study visas issued. It is quite early to explain that if this is an indication of any long-term trend. Other migration experts also agreed to this opinion and stated that it was immature to tell whether the drop in net immigration the start of a post-Brexit downward trend was.

    Uncertainty and Migration from EU

    It is interesting to note that emigration of A8 nationals increased significantly at the same time as many EU citizens are scrambling to secure their resident status in the United Kingdom. Uncertainty is clearly a major issue for EU nationals in the present political environment.

    Provision of Residence Documents to 3.5m EU Citizens

    Now the most pressing migration issue facing the UK Government is NOT Less Net Migration, but how to provide residence documents to 3.5 million EU citizens presently living in the United Kingdom. Exactly how this process will work is not likely to be resolved until negotiations with the European Union will be initiated, but the present data reveals that EU citizens are increasingly keen to get the paperwork and resident documents sooner rather than at a later stage.

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