Blog by Gary McIndoe, Managing Director, Latitude Law
Now the EU Repeal Bill has begun its journey through parliament, it seems a good time to take stock of the political landscape, and attempt to gain a better understanding of how the British government sees our post-Brexit labour force. Members of the team here at Latitude Law are contributing authors to the new Bloomsbury title Doing Business After Brexit. Since our chapter on the future of EU migration was written a few months ago, we have a slightly better idea of where the government wants to take our jobs market, due in part to the Guardian’s leaking of an internal Home Office discussion paper in late August.
A three-phase program is proposed, in part to shield business and employers from the almighty legal jolt that is EU withdrawal. Phase one takes us up to Brexit day on or around 31 March 2019, and its focus is consolidation of rights enjoyed by existing EU workers and their families in the UK. Phase two is transitional, with a light-touch entry and residence process for EU nationals lasting for two years or so. Phase three is crunch time: when rules governing residence and work rights for EU citizens are brought closely into line with those of non-EU migrants to the UK; a system of sponsorship for students and highly-skilled worker at its heart.
The great unknown – and I believe the area of most concern to employers – is the fate of unskilled workers. How, and to what extent, will such EU nationals be able to access our jobs market and fill the thousands of vacancies in hospitality, agriculture and construction that are likely to exist then?
The UK’s points-based system for managed economic migration is divided into 5 tiers; Tier 3 has never been used, and could form the basis for a new system for these EU workers. Important decisions await: will families be able to accompany such individuals? will they acquire rights of permanent residence at some point? And if a separate immigration system is to be retained for EU citizens, how does the UK handle the inevitable charges of discriminatory treatment of workers?
Negotiations may stall because of the EU27’s insistence that the UK’s financial settlement be agreed before we move on to such matters; we await developments with interest. In the meantime, if employers or their staff have concerns about these issues, Latitude Law’s team of specialist lawyers is here to answer your questions.