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.
The Social Market Foundation figures show that approximately 3.55 million EU citizens currently reside in the UK, with up to 1,660,000 originating from nations that were part of the EU before 2004. Around 1.5 million of this 3.55 million figure are believed to be from the eight Eastern European countries that joined the EU 12 years ago.
Emran Mian, Director of the Social Market Foundation stated: "These are the first steps in providing greater clarity on the negotiations to come with these countries and the EU as a whole…The Government should now provide its own analysis and articulate a plan for starting discussions. Until it does, EU residents living in the UK, the businesses which employ them and the communities in which they live, are subject to uncertainty which will become more worrying as time goes on".
Time will tell as to whether the projections made by the think tank are correct…