Last reviewed 1 November 2019

Many organisations will no doubt have been struggling to keep up with Brexit as it has unfolded over the last few months, but it seems that we now finally have a little bit more certainty. As of 28 October, the EU has agreed, in principle, to extend the deadline for which the UK is set to leave the EU until 31 January 2020. This new date is therefore the end of a further period of time within which the UK can aim to put forward, and have accepted into law, a Brexit deal.

Under the provisions of the Benn Act, the Prime Minister will have to accept this extension offer from the EU. Fundamentally, this delay has all but confirmed that a no-deal scenario is off the table, something that will likely cause a great number of organisations to breathe a sigh of relief. That said, although it seems we do have a temporary reprieve from the no-deal shadow, it would be wise not to get too complacent. As the UK once again enters into negotiations with the EU, a no-deal situation could still be very much a possibility going forward.

A 31 October no-deal would have meant that EU nationals needed to be in the country by 11am on 31 October in order to apply for “settled status” under the EU Settlement Scheme. Now, this deadline will need to be extended as we wait for a new Brexit date to be confirmed. In addition to this, any EU employees who arrived after this date would have needed to apply to obtain Temporary Leave to Remain, with no guarantee that they would be able to stay in the UK once the new immigration system was introduced in January 2021. Now, organisations can be assured that they can continue to take on new workers from the EU following 31 October, until a new Brexit date is set, without this issue potentially arising down the line for those specific individuals.

This new January date is not set in stone and Brexit can still be brought forward if a deal is agreed before then. Whether this will be the deal previously presented to Parliament, or an entirely new agreement, remains to be seen. With a General Election set for 12 December, it remains unclear what lies in store for Brexit, with the Conservative Party remaining committed to delivering on the 2016 referendum and the Labour Party pushing for a People’s Vote. What is essential is that organisations keep up to date with ongoing Brexit developments as we go forward.