It may not have been accompanied by the usual pomp and circumstance, but the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, June 21 did provide some further clues as to what the government has planned for EU nationals post-Brexit. In the speech, the Queen confirmed that there are plans for an immigration bill that, if passed, will enable the government to end the free movement of EU nationals into the UK, but still allow the country to attract “the brightest and the best.” The bill would require EU nationals and their families to be “subject to relevant UK law,” she said.
This seems to suggest that we can expect to see a skills-based immigration system for EU workers following Brexit. Reading in between the lines, it also seems we can expect that EU nationals already working in the UK who choose to remain will be allowed to do so. However, those who do choose to remain will be subject exclusively to UK law, and will no longer enjoy the protections afforded by the European Court of Justice. Presumably this would work along the lines of Norway’s membership in the single market.
Currently EU nationals in the UK are advised to apply for permanent residency if they meet the qualifying criteria. The thinking being this may be sufficient to secure their stay in the UK after Brexit. Theresa May is in Brussels for Brexit talks today, where she is set to address EU leaders on her plans for the 3 million EU nationals currently residing in the UK, and the 1 million UK citizens currently residing in mainland Europe. We understand that full details of her plans will be published on Monday, ending the uncertainty that currently hangs over those who have exercised their right to freedom of movement, and over their employers.