In July we reported that the increasing chance of a no-deal Brexit was causing concern with regard to firms losing access to the EU workers that many have taken on in recent years (see Employers Worried About Immigration Proposals).

When the new Home Secretary Priti Patel then said that freedom of movement from the EU Member States would end on the day the UK leaves the Union, those concerns became even more wide-spread.

However, recent press reports have suggested that the Home Office has been given legal advice that such a drastic move would almost certainly be subject to legal challenge, and that the Government was by no means certain to win the argument.

Accordingly, it was not a total surprise when Ms Patel backtracked on her original announcement and issued a statement which instead highlighted that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, border controls will be introduced to “make it harder for criminals to enter the UK”.

She said: “Introducing tougher checks and ending free movement as it currently stands will allow us to take the first, historic steps towards taking back control of our borders. In the future, we will introduce a new points-based immigration system built around the skills and talent people have — not where they are from.”

Ms Patel then went on to highlight the introduction of blue UK passports and the removal of the blue EU customs channel, requiring all travellers to make customs declarations by choosing the red or green channel.

In news that will be more relevant to employers, the Home Office confirmed the introduction of a new European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme (Euro TLR) for Swiss and EEA (European Economic Area, the EU Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) citizens and their close family members.

Citizens of those countries moving to the UK after Brexit and up until the end of 2020 will be able to obtain a temporary immigration status lasting three years. This will, the Home Office said, give businesses certainty that they will be able to recruit and retain staff after the UK leaves the Union.

Comment by Croner Associate Director Paul Holcroft

Although keeping up with the latest Brexit developments is sure to be causing employers distress, the announcement of the European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme should help settle the nerves of many who fear the immediate impact of a no-deal scenario.

Employers now have the added security of knowing that they may still retain the ability to recruit and temporarily retain new EU nationals that move to the UK after Brexit and apply before the end of 2020, even in the event of a no deal.

This will at least give employers more time to prepare and avoid any immediate loss of potential talent that would have occurred in a no-deal scenario if freedom of movement was revoked without any suitable replacement.

Last reviewed 10 September 2019