The Impact of Brexit on UK Immigration

The Impact of Brexit on UK Immigration


Following Britain’s referendum decision on June 23rd to leave the EU, many UK immigrants living abroad – also known as expats – are concerned as to what the effects of this momentous decision will be. Prior to the Brexit vote, citizens of any EU member state could work anywhere in the EU bloc under established freedom of movement rules. But how exactly has that changed?


Although there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what Brexit will mean in the future, most experts do not expect any imminent change. Of course, the UK will be allowed two years to extricate itself from the EU once they have signed Article 50, which will trigger the process. For the moment, however, no one seems to want to trigger Article 50, so the UK is in a kind of EU limbo as political parties fragment and people try to figure out what the hell is going on.


Although freedom of movement will of course ultimately be affected, the changes in legislation will certainly, for the reasons outlined above, be very gradual. So the automatic right of citizens of EU member states to find work in the UK, and the right of UK citizens to find work in the EU will be affected, but the specifics of exactly how they will be affected will be worked out during the two-year negotiations following the triggering of Article 50.



What will happen to British expats who already live in Europe?

Uncertainty aside, it is generally agreed that British expats who already live in Europe need not have too much concern that they will be repatriated. Aside from fear of retaliation from the UK government, experts suggest that such a scheme would be extremely difficult to implement as well as being extremely economically damaging.


EU representatives have also pointed out that the 1969 Vienna Convention states that existing expats’ rights will be grandfathered. This means that they will retain the rights gained under a treaty even if that treaty is terminated at a later date. Ultimately then, expats already living in Europe would keep the rights they acquired to stay in Europe prior to Brexit.


Similarly, it is also probable that many or most EU citizens who already live and work in the UK will be allowed to continue to do so in exchange for similar agreements concerning UK citizens who are currently employed in their country of origin.


Of course, this would not apply to anyone who moves abroad in the future. It is extremely unlikely that UK citizens wishing to enjoy freedom of movement and automatic workers’ rights in the EU in the future will be able to do so. They may still be able to move to the EU, but not without jumping through an extremely off-putting amount of administrative hoops.


As for passport rights in post-Brexit Europe, this very much depends on the terms of the exit that are eventually negotiated. If the UK decides to remain within the European Economic Area, this will mean it can still gain access to European markets and would most probably stay within the EU passporting regime. A full exit, however, would mean that UK-based businesses would forfeit the right to automatically supply goods and services into Europe, ultimately making their business suffer.


We are expert immigration solicitors with offices in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Peterborough. If you are looking for expert legal advice related to immigration or any enquiries arising out of the post brexit effects to immigration of the EU nationals you can contact us directly by calling us on 0121 525  2555 or send us your details by filling in the contact us form and we shall contact you to discuss you matter.