On Thursday 23rd June 17.4 million people in the UK and Gibraltar voted to leave Europe (the European Union) whilst 16.1 million voted to remain. This is a 52/48% split from a 72% voter turnout.
As the results had only been announced on Friday 24th June, we are yet to see the implications of what this will mean for both EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in Europe.
In terms of historic precedent, this is the first time that a major trading country has left the EU (Greenland left the EEC IN 1985) and so there is no previous precedent to follow in respect of next steps. That said, under EU law, the UK must trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin negotiating its exit or “divorce” from Europe. This will lead to a transition period of at least two years during which our exit will be negotiated. When this will begin and who will lead negotiations is yet to be determined. There is much speculation over what trade, economic and social model will be adopted by the UK in respect of our relationship with the EU going forward.
The British exit is very likely to impact immigration law and the free movement of workers between the UK and Europe. While the impact will not be immediate, employers should probably prepare their employees and begin to assess their own recruitment strategies as soon as possible.
Following the transition period mentioned above, the UK will no longer be subject to EU free movement principles. That said, it is anticipated that EU nationals already working in the UK, as of 23 June 2016, should not be impacted and should be permitted to stay in the UK. It is also possible that anyone starting work in the UK between 24 June 2016 and the end of the transitional period would have similar rights to stay in the UK.
Once the UK leaves the EU at the end of the transition period, then European immigration routes which are currently available to foreign workers – including EU nationals and their family members – could be impacted. Similarly immigration of UK nationals into Europe will also be affected. If the UK re-imposes national immigration laws for all EU nationals, sponsorship under all Points-Based System routes could also be impacted.
At the end of the transitional period, UK and EU nationals will, in all likelihood, no longer be able to travel and work freely between the UK and the rest of Europe. They will likely to be required to undergo additional visa procedures and obtain work and residence permits in host locations.
Going forward, businesses should anticipate more restrictive immigration procedures and additional time and costs related to greater procedural requirements.
From an international relocation perspective little is likely to change in the short term, however businesses might need to begin strategic planning for their relocation needs as the transition period progresses and clarity around the markets response to the Brexit vote becomes clearer.
Social security covers issues that are of importance to many people who will be affected by Brexit, such as access to health care and pensions. And for employers and employees alike exemption from host schemes when seconded for assignments abroad
In all likelihood, Social Security is the one area where individuals are most likely to feel the effects of Brexit. Initially there will be uncertainty as individuals wait for what will replace the current system, followed by possible upheaval depending on what agreement is reached between UK and the remaining EU members.
We do not know enough at this stage to offer any further advice or comment, however we will keep you posted on all further developments.