Brexit – what does this mean for EU Nationals currently residing in the UK?

Following on from my article last month covering the potential impact of Brexit on UK Employment Law, the debate goes on as to the possible implications for workers. So – what happens to the roughly 3.6 million EU Nationals living and working in the UK going forwards?

Prior to the Referendum, the Vote Leave campaign assured us that any new immigration system would have no effect on EU citizens already living in the UK and that these individuals would "automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present". The Remain campaign however warned of a different outcome, stating that "all current EU citizens here would lose their automatic right to come and work in the UK. This means that living and working in the UK would be significantly more difficult after a leave vote for EU citizens, and is likely to involve restrictions and barriers in the form of permits, visas or other costs and bureaucracy".

A recent study by think tank the Social Market Foundation, found that on the basis Article 50 is triggered next year and the process takes two years to complete (i.e. until 2019), more than 80¢ of the 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK would meet the 5 year requirement to remain. This would mean that the vast majority of all EU citizens who arrived in the UK prior to 2014 and continuing to live here, would have the right to permanent residency by the time Britain leaves the EU.

The study also found however that up to 590,000 EU Citizens living in the UK may not have the right to remain once Brexit is complete.

New Prime Minister Theresa May has been under intense pressure from many Eurosceptics to impose a hard line Brexit that would mean EU citizens would lose their right to automatically come to the UK, however she recently told nearly 800,000 Poles living in the UK that she “wants and expects” them to remain in the UK after Brexit.

illegal working and employment rights

Illegal working and eligibility for employment protection is another topic which seems to have been keeping the courts busy this year. Possibly a reflection of a wider issue concerning the composition of the workforce, some of the working practices which have been disclosed in these cases give serious cause for concern.

In March we reported the decision in Zarkasi v Anindita and anor [2012] UKEAT in which a race discrimination claim by an au pair who had entered the UK to work using falsified documents failed, because the unfavourable treatment related not to her race but to her lack of any right to live or work in the UK. Hounga v Allen & Anor [2012] EWCA Civ 609 is a decision of the Court of Appeal concerning a similar situation, which arrives at the same result by a different route based on earlier Court of Appeal decisions on illegal contracts, including Hall v Woolston Hall Leisure Ltd (2001) and Vakante v Governing Body of Addey and Stanhope School (No 2) (2005).

Ms Hounga, with help from others (she being illiterate), obtained a passport in a false name in Nigeria and entered the UK on a 6 month visitor’s visa, ostensibly to visit her grandmother (who, if she existed at all, did not live in the UK), but in fact to take up a job arranged for her here as an au pair for a family with connections in Nigeria.

more about domestic workers, unfair dismissal and illegal contracts

Last month we reported the decision in Jose v Julio (and other linked cases) concerning au pairs and the minimum wage.
This month sees a new case looking at the position of a domestic worker from overseas and the extent to which she could benefit from UK employment law rights. The complications in Zarkasi v Anindita and another were that (i) this worker entered the UK using false documents obtained by her employer – with her full agreement and co-operation, (ii) she was thus an illegal immigrant with had no legal right to work in this country, and (iii) she believed – or at least was prepared to claim – that she had been the victim of human trafficking.