How will Brexit impact key skills in the UK?

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Gareth Edwards

The comments made by Airbus’ Chief operating officer Tom Williams regarding the impact of a “no-deal” Brexit have seen a lot of comment across national and local news. Whilst not all companies will have started to “press the button on crisis actions ” as Mr Williams indicated Airbus was doing, all businesses, regardless of their size and sector, will need to think and plan for how Brexit might impact their retention and recruitment of key personnel.

EEA Nationals

A large number of organisations employ EEA nationals (nationals of European Union countries, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein).  EEA nationals can currently reside in the UK for an initial period of three months. Those who will be in the UK for more than three months will have a right of residence for as long as they remain a ‘Qualified Person’, which briefly includes workers, self-employed, students and the self-sufficient. EEA nationals and their family members acquire permanent residence in the UK after five (continuous) years as a Qualified Person.

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What will happen when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019?

Firstly, the current position is that there will be no change to current rights for EU citizens until the end of the proposed implementation period on 31 December 2020.

The current proposal is that people who, by 31 December 2020, have been continuously and lawfully living in the UK for five years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by obtaining ‘settled status’. That means they will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and can go on to apply for British citizenship.

People who arrive by 31 December 2020, but won’t have been living here lawfully for five years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the five year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status. Family members who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK by 31 December 2020 will also be able to apply for settled status, usually after five years in the UK.

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Reassurance

The government has said that their main aim in developing this scheme has been to ensure that EU citizens and their family members living in the UK can continue to do so much as before – which is potentially positive news for an employer relying on a workforce of EEA nationals. It remains to be seen how the process works in practice, however, and whether the Home Office is able to efficiently process and respond to the significant numbers of applicants that it will receive.

Gareth Edwards is a Partner in the Employment Law team at award-winning regional law firm VWV. Gareth can be contacted on 0117 314 5220 or at gedwards@vwv.co.uk.

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