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Brexit and UK immigration

We all know that immigration was one of the central issues in the referendum debate. Citizens of the European Union, and their families, can exercise the right to live and work in other EU states. What happens now we know that the UK will be leaving the EU? Nothing, everything remains as it was before we knew the outcome of the vote. At least for now.

This means that the right to work checks remain unchanged for EU nationals (employers need to see a valid European passport or biometric residence permit) to ensure the worker has the right to work in the UK.

What about EU nationals who are currently employed in the UK?

Providing the employer has the requisite evidence (so, for example a copy of the passport or biometric passport on file), the employer can continue to employ any EU national without any further checks or action required at this stage. Some EU nationals working in the UK are already taking advice on how to become citizens of the UK.

Future recruitment procedures

Employers may feel nervous – should they ‘bother’ recruiting EU nationals given the fact that the UK is to leave the EU? The short answer is that employers need to ensure that they continue with their usual recruitment practices and do not disregard an applicant because he/she is an EU national. If applicants are rejected for example because of they are from the EU, the applicant would have a claim for discrimination on the grounds of nationality.

What might happen when the UK leaves?

We simply do not know for sure. As stated above, the status quo remains the same for now and during the negotiations (which have not started at the time of this article’s publication). When the UK finally leaves the EU, we would expect there to be transitional arrangements.

This could mean that EU nationals who are living and working in the UK to continue to have that right. EU nationals not in the UK at the time of exit could well face new controls to establish their right to work and live in the UK; perhaps those rules will be based on the current ‘points based system’ the UK currently operates for workers wishing to work in the UK who are from outside the EU. Alternatively, there may still be some free movement of EU nationals – we simply do not know.

What should employers be doing now?

Some employers and some sectors recruit heavily from the EU. For example, those in the health sector, leisure, retail, restaurant and bars. In those circumstances, employers need to start planning on how they will meet their recruitment needs once the UK is outside of the EU. There may still be free movement of EU nationals, but we simply do not know, so employers would be well advised to start establishing a strategy on the risk of the free movement of EU nationals being removed in totality and the risk of the free movement rules changing.


We will continue to update you as this important issue unfolds.


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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