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Brexodus continues

Net migration from the EU has plummeted from 165,000 in 2016 to 90,000 in 2017.

As expected, in the latest statistics released by the Office of National Statistics today, net migration from the EU has plummeted, with fewer EU nationals moving to the UK and more leaving:

2016 2017
EU nationals who immigrated to the UK 268,000 220,000
EU nationals who emigrated from the UK 103,000 130,000
Net migration +165,000 +90,000

This is of significant concern to industries and sectors that rely heavily on EU talent, with health and medical services, and farming and agriculture already dealing with considerable labour shortages.

The UK will officially leave the EU on March 29, 2019, and even though this is still over 12 months away, employers are already feeling the impact.

The other interesting statistic released today is the huge increase in EU nationals applying for British citizenship. In 2016 15,460 EU nationals applied for British citizenship—following the Brexit referendum this number more than doubled to 38,528 in 2017.

What we can take from both of these statistics is that the lack of certainty in citizens’ rights and future immigration policy following Brexit is forcing individuals to consider and protect their position in the UK. At one end of the spectrum we can see that EU nationals are securing their rights in the UK by naturalising as a British citizen, and at the other end EU nationals are reassessing whether the UK is the place to establish a life and career in the first place. Without certainty on citizens’ rights and future immigration policy we can expect these statistics to continue on the same trajectory.

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Brexodus continues

Immigration briefing papers








This week saw the publication of two briefing papers—one by Bernard Ryan, Professor of Migration Law at the University of Leicester (for the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA); and the other by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR)—that make significant contributions to the ongoing conversation on immigration policy, particularly in light of the inevitable changes due to Brexit.

The ILPA briefing paper, “Who will remain after Brexit? Ensuring protection for all persons resident under EU law,” identifies gaps concerning both EU citizens and third-country nationals who, potentially, will be negatively impacted by Brexit as they are not included in the government’s current thinking. These groups include, for example:

  • EU citizens and family members resident outside the UK at the point of Brexit who have a history of residence in the UK and may need or desire to resume residence in the UK in the future; and
  • EU nationals whose primary residence is outside of the UK but who, for either business/work or personal reasons, have a second place of residence in the UK. Post Brexit, these individuals may fail the required residency requirements to obtain residence or settled status, given their high absences from the UK, and instead be treated as visitors to the UK, a status that would obviously not permit them to work in the UK.

A summary of the paper, together with the full version, is available here.

The IPPR paper, “An immigration strategy for the UK: Six proposals to manage migration for economic success,” addresses the need to link immigration with the strategic priorities of the UK, particularly economic ones, in a post-Brexit world, and to understand the role that immigration plays in meeting these. The six proposals referred to in the title are:

This paper serves to remind us of the enormous challenge facing policymakers as they seek to ensure that all affected parties are captured in their thinking and that adequate protections are included in both the withdrawal agreement and future UK immigration legislation.

  1. Immigration strategy should clearly differentiate between types of immigration.
  2. Immigration strategy should actively address geographical imbalances in the economy.
  3. Immigration strategy should be designed to spur innovation.
  4. Immigration strategy should forge a new compact between employers and government, as a means to achieving a high-pay, high-productivity economy.
  5. Immigration strategy should support the UK’s trade balance.
  6. Immigration strategy should promote equality and integration.

In the lead-up to what will inevitably be an overhaul of the immigration system due to Brexit, the IPPR paper reminds us of the opportunity this brings, and the need to be active in the ongoing immigration debate.

The full report is available to download at the IPPR website. (The four-page summary is well worth a read.)

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Immigration briefing papers

Brexit, a global perspective in the immediate aftermath…

Brexit Immigration

Following the UK’s EU referendum, the UK has a clear mandate for exit from the European Union. There is doubt, however, about what the future may look like for the UK and its relationship with Europe or the rest of the world. It is likely that there will now be a prolonged transition period, with the next UK government needing time to plan, prepare and negotiate the UK’s future.

Some key thoughts in the meantime:

  • For UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU, and EU nationals living in the UK, there will be no immediate change. Protection of citizens already established in those states is likely to form part of negotiations between the UK and the EU.
  • Free movement of EU citizens is expected to be negotiated as a condition of any trade deal between the UK and the EU. However, if ultimately the UK decides to no longer share in the EU’s right to free movement of labor, then citizens of other member states will not enjoy an automatic right to work, travel and live in the UK. Similarly, UK citizens will not enjoy EU citizenship rights. Prior to the referendum, the UK had already made it more difficult for EU citizens to gain permanent residence in the UK. However, the UK government will be aware that imposing fundamental limits on the free movement of labor at this time could make the UK a much less attractive destination for international businesses and skilled and educated migrants.
  • Nationals of other countries working in the UK, such as from the US, should see no imminent changes. The UK government is saying that the UK is open for business on a global scale. This is an opportunity to grow and strengthen relationships across the globe. At present the UK is not seeing any large-scale recruitment freezes or job losses.
  • Trade and investment are good for the UK’s employment growth and stability. The UK government will want to keep a level playing field with the UK’s European counterparts, and look for opportunities across the globe, at this crucial time. One key area where it will want to display its good practice is data protection. Realistically, a trade deal between the UK and the EU may also mean the UK continuing to be subject to key EU legislation.
  • The UK has a body of homegrown legislation protecting UK employment law rights. The fundamental right that exists in the UK to claim unfair dismissal will not be affected by its withdrawal from Europe. The UK also had discrimination laws in place before its ascension to the EU; EU aims and legislation are so established in UK good employment practice that they are likely to remain fundamentally the same for now. While moving to a US-style system, where employees receive lower overall protection, is possible, it is unlikely in the short term, given the broader cultural change needed to accept the US norms.
  • Subject to the above, EU rights, or improvements in those rights, in the UK may eventually be diminished or lost. However, it seems likely that grand proposals will eventually be reduced to a few smaller, less significant changes. If the UK is not required to keep EU legislation in these areas as part of a broader deal, the government may review and make changes to the current position in a number of areas, such as: (i) harmonization of terms following a TUPE transfer, (ii) limits on bankers’ bonuses, (iii) working time controls, (iv) collective redundancy consultation, (v) agency workers’ rights and (vi) the absence of a cap on discrimination awards.
  • If the UK is no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, UK case law may develop in a slightly different direction. This may mean a gradual parting of ways between the UK and EU states.

On balance, it is most likely that the next government will want to preserve the status quo, at least in the short term, and wait for the dust to settle before looking for opportunities to make more fundamental and valuable changes. Dentons will keep you posted as the picture evolves.

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Brexit, a global perspective in the immediate aftermath…