A no-deal Brexit is now a very real possibility, and the UK government has announced that freedom of movement of EU citizens and their family members will come to an end immediately on 31 October 2019 should the United Kingdom leave the European Union without a deal. This means that EEA and Swiss nationals arriving after 31 October 2019 will not be able to live and work in the United Kingdom as they can do currently.
The announcement marks a notable change of direction from the proposals published in a policy paper under former Prime Minister Theresa May’s government. This policy paper set out that if a deal was not reached, EEA and Swiss nationals arriving after 31 October 2019 and before 31 December 2020 would be permitted to stay for a maximum of three months for visits, work, or study and would be required to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain to stay beyond this three-month period. European Temporary Leave to Remain would be valid for three years, after which migrants would have needed to switch to a visa category in the immigration rules in place at that time.
The announcement means that these plans are to be revised and indicate that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, EEA and Swiss nationals who wish to enter the United Kingdom to take employment, self-employment, study, or live there on a long-term basis will have to comply with new immigration rules that may be introduced as early as 31 October 2019. The Home Office has confirmed that EEA and Swiss nationals will be able to continue to come to the United Kingdom visa free as visitors for tourism or business purposes and will still be able to enter through the egates. The Home Office is yet to publish details on how frontier workers will be treated in the event of a no-deal and whether separate provisions will apply to them.
The announcement will not impact EEA and Swiss nationals who arrive in the United Kingdom prior to Brexit on 31 October 2019. These nationals will be permitted to remain in the United Kingdom upon submitting an application under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Employers should encourage EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who are currently in the United Kingdom and have yet to apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme to do this as soon as possible before the inevitable rush which is likely to occur as we approach 31 October 2019. In addition, EEA nationals considering coming to the United Kingdom towards the end of the year or early next year may wish to consider accelerating these plans to ensure that they enter the United Kingdom before 31 October 2019 and are therefore able to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.
If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this alert, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers: