• Brexit transition – freedom of movement

Brexit transition – freedom of movement

29 March 2018

On 19 March 2018, the UK and the EU Commission announced an outline agreement for a Brexit transition period between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020. 

The UK’s original proposals on freedom of movement for EU citizens during the transition period would have placed certain registration obligations on EU nationals relocating to the UK after March 2019. However, the outline agreement sets out that all EU citizens (including UK nationals) will have full freedom of movement throughout the transition period. If this agreement is implemented, UK employers will face no official barriers in recruiting workers from the EU or seconding UK workers to EU branches or subsidiaries until 2021 at the earliest. 

The remaining area of uncertainty is that the agreement only offers a ‘fall-back’ position on the Northern Ireland customs border issue – a position that Theresa May has said that no UK Prime Minister could sign up to. As “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, unless a resolution to the Northern Ireland Border issue can be found before March 2019, the transitional agreement could still be dropped - resulting in a hard Brexit on 29 March 2019. Both sides will be working on the Northern Ireland issue over the next few weeks so it is hoped that the outcome will be clearer by summer 2018.

It is understood the Government still intends for the proposed “settled status” rules to apply for EU citizens living in the UK from 2021 onwards.

Interestingly, also on 19 March 2018, the UK Government announced that it would not be renewing the transitional restrictions in place for Croatian citizens seeking to come to the UK under the EU freedom of movement rules. When Croatia join the EU in 2013, the UK exercised its right to impose restrictions on Croatians settling in the UK – currently they must apply to the Home Office for permission to work in the UK unless they qualify under one of the specific exemptions. This means that during the proposed Brexit transition period, Croatian workers will have the same rights as all other EU citizens.