At the beginning of September the UK government announced that current freedom of movement rules “will end on 31 October when the UK leaves the EU”, causing ripples of panic throughout the business community. Subsequent reports suggested that the risk of legal challenges make an abrupt end to freedom of movement this month unlikely.
Home secretary Priti Patel finally provided an update on 25 September, describing the Home Office’s plans for immigration in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, in a letter which was issued by The Home Affairs Committee.
In the letter, the home secretary confirms that much of the UK’s existing free movement framework will remain in place after 31 October, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, after which parliament will be required to pass primary legislation to repeal the existing rules.
This means, as it stands, that free movement of EU citizens will not end automatically if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October as the EU law will have to be replaced, but existing citizens must still apply for settled status with the Home Office by December 2020 in order to remain in the country longer-term.
“For those [European Economic Area] citizens who arrived just before exit, a used travel ticket confirming previous inbound travel to the UK will be treated as evidence of residence for the month of entry,” the home secretary’s letter also confirmed.
After that December 2020 deadline any European Economic Area (EAA) citizen wanting to live and work in the UK will either need to hold pre-settled status or settled status, European temporary leave to remain or any new status created by the proposed government changes to the current immigration system.
The government has repeatedly asserted its preference to introduce an “Australian-style” immigration system post-Brexit, “that prioritises skills and what people can contribute to the UK, rather than where they came from,” a Home Office spokesperson told Techworld.
In a blog post for TechUK published last month, Vinous Ali, associate director for policy at the technology industry trade body wrote: “As things stand Parliament has legislated for freedom of movement to continue after the UK leaves the EU, this was done in the Withdrawal Act which transposed EU law onto the UK statute book to ensure a smooth transition.
“There is legislation currently working its way through parliament to end freedom of movement by repealing Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1988, in the form of the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, but with the government in a state of flux, it is unlikely to get passed before 31 October.”
Naomi Hanrahan-Soar, managing associate at law firm Lewis Silkin told Techworld: “It would be unlawful to change the immigration law that dramatically by secondary legislation and there isn’t practically enough time to get new primary legislation through at this stage.
“Proper time and consideration should be given to a new immigration system and if that means extending free movement a little longer, they should not be averse to doing that.”
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