Under a no-deal Brexit, EU nationals arriving in the UK after 29 March would have to apply for leave to remain in order to stay more than three months, the government has announced.
Home secretary Sajid Javid said the government would introduce an interim arrangement that would allow European Economic Area (EEA) citizens and their families to come to the UK to visit, work or study for three months, after which they would need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain.
This would give them a further three years, after which they would need to apply again under the skills-based immigration system that the government hopes to have in place by 2021.
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The announcement comes as parliament prepares for a series of votes today that are expected to shape the next stage of the UK’s negotiations with Europe – including the likelihood of a no-deal outcome.
Javid said: “If we leave the EU without a deal we will continue to deliver on the referendum result and end free movement once and for all – giving us full control of our borders for the first time in decades.
“However, we need to take a practical approach and minimise disruption to ensure the UK stays open for business.”
Karendeep Kaur, senior immigration consultant at Migrate UK, said an interim period would prevent a “complete shutdown” on recruiting from the EU in the event of ‘no-deal’, but told People Management it would be a “temporary reprieve”.
“We don’t know yet exactly how much [temporary leave] is going to cost, and whether employers are going to want to pay those fees,” she said.
There would be more uncertainty after the three years as it is still unclear whether EU nationals with temporary reprieve will meet the new migration rules, said Kaur. “There’s been no indication as to what the minimum financial threshold is going to be.
“Yes they’re still going to be able to stay for up to three years, but after that they’ll be expected to leave again if they don’t meet the minimum threshold,” she said, adding that medium and highly skilled workers were likely to meet the threshold, but lower-skilled workers would be most affected.
Kaur advised businesses that know they are recruiting EU nationals to “get them into the country before 29 March” and ensure they are registered under the government’s EU Settlement Scheme to avoid the uncertainty. “At the moment we know that a pre-settled or settled application is not costing anything and the decision process is quite swift,” she said.
Parliament will today vote on a number of amendments to the exit deal prime minister Theresa May has agreed with the EU, and could also potentially vote on an amendment that would block the UK from leaving without a deal. However, at the time of writing, it was not decided which amendments would be voted on, and the potential of a political impasse remains.
Chris Russell, policy adviser at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), told People Management a no-deal Brexit “needs to be avoided”.
“With numbers of EU workers coming to the UK declining, sectors such as hospitality, warehousing and food and drink that rely heavily on EU nationals are already facing candidate shortages. If they can’t continue to fill these roles, we risk damage to supply chains that will affect all our daily lives,” he said.
“While it’s late in the day, it’s good that we finally have some clarity on what would happen in the event of a no-deal scenario, however we need to see more detail on this policy.”