Category: Brexit

New settled status updates for EU citizens

The government on 07th November 2017 offered further reassurance for EU citizens and their family members by setting out further details of how its new settled status scheme will operate.Those applying to stay in the UK after we leave the EU will not have their applications refused on minor technicalities and caseworkers considering applications will exercise discretion where appropriate. We expect the majority of cases to be granted.

EU citizens will also be given a statutory right of appeal, in line with their current rights through the Free Movement Directive, if their application is unsuccessful.In a technical document sent to the European Commission as part of negotiations, the government reiterates how the new system will be streamlined, low-cost and user-friendly, with EU citizens consulted on its design.

The Prime Minister has been clear that safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals in Europe is the first priority for negotiations and she said last month that an agreement is within touching distance. Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis said:

We have been clear that safeguarding the rights of EU citizens is our top priority in our negotiations. They make a huge contribution to our economy and society and we do not want to see that change as a result of our decision to leave the EU.

We will support everyone wishing to stay to gain settled status through a new straightforward, streamlined system.

The last negotiation round saw real progress in this area and I believe the document we have published today can facilitate the deal we need to guarantee the rights of UK citizens living in the EU27, and vice versa.

The document commits to:

  • giving EU citizens plenty of time to apply, with a 2-year grace period after we leave the EU to make an application for settled status
  • minimising the documentary evidence that applicants need to provide and enabling caseworkers to contact applicants to resolve minor issues
  • keeping the cost of an application to no more than that of a British passport
  • giving EU citizens a statutory right of appeal, in line with their current rights through the Free Movement Directive, if their application is unsuccessful
  • making decisions solely on the criteria set out in the Withdrawal Agreement, with no discretion for other reasons for refusal
  • introducing a digital, streamlined and user friendly application system
  • not requiring EU citizens to have held comprehensive sickness insurance or to provide fingerprints
  • a simpler, lower cost process for those who already have permanent residence documentation.

The document also sets out that applicants will be asked to declare any criminal convictions and be checked against UK security databases. This is a reasonable measure to keep the country safe from those who have abused our hospitality by committing serious crimes.

If you are unsure whether to apply for a EEA PR document now or wait for the simplified process as detailed above, please get in touch with us to discuss more on 020 3695 4626.

Brexit: Businesses warn over ‘UK workers first’ proposal

Under the draft plan, leaked to the Guardian, firms would have to recruit locally unless they could prove an “economic need” to employ EU citizens.They could face a skills tax to boost training of UK workers if they still chose to employ unskilled EU staff.But business groups say a “sudden” cut could cause “massive disruption”.

The National Farmers’ Union claimed the “entire food supply chain” could be threatened.The leaked Home Office document has not been signed off by ministers, who will set out their post-Brexit migration plans later this year.But Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The public voted to leave the European Union. That means freedom of movement has to end.”

He said “people with the right skills” would still be “welcome”.But he added: “Equally we have to make sure that British companies are also prepared to train up British workers.

Full story can be read here.

EU immigration offer could lead to Brexit reversal, claims Adonis

The decision of the British people to leave the European Union could be reversed next year if France and Germany agree that the UK can take control over immigration while staying in the EU single market, the former Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis said on Sunday.With concern over the government’s handling of Brexit growing ahead of a key parliamentary vote on Monday, the peer said Angela Merkel, who is expected to be re-elected as German chancellor later this month, and French president Emmanuel Macron could well make such an offer if they believe it could mean the UK remaining in the EU.

Writing in the Observer, Adonis said he believes a majority of peers in the House of Lords will support an amendment to the EU withdrawal bill – now passing through the Commons – requiring another referendum before Brexit takes effect, with the options being to accept the deal on offer, or stay in the EU.Such an amendment for another national vote, Adonis said, would stand a good chance of being passed by the House of Commons because Labour would by then have reason to support it, and sufficient pro-EU Tories would also rally behind it, he argues.

“The interplay between a referendum and such a Merkel-Macron ‘offer’ will be vital,” he writes. “If it is clear by next summer that Britain is going to hold a referendum, then the incentive for them to make a bold offer greatly increases.”He adds: “A lot depends upon whether the alternative is the status quo – or EU membership without freedom of movement in respect of right to work and right to reside for all EU nationals. If Chancellor Merkel and President Macron make an offer, probably over the heads of the British government, for the UK to stay in the economic institutions of the EU but with national control over immigration, then I believe the referendum can be won.

“Why might Macron and Merkel make this offer? Partly because – in Macron’s case – he (rightly) doesn’t believe that unrestricted free movement of labour is integral to the single market. Partly because many other EU leaders agree with him. And partly for the big strategic reason – which weighs on strategic thinkers in Berlin – that, if Britain leaves the EU, 80% of Nato resources will then be outside the EU, which is hardly a recipe for European security and stability if you are looking across at the Russian and Chinese bears.”While Theresa May is expected to avoid any significant Tory rebellion over the EU withdrawal bill at the second reading stage on Monday, there is growing concern among MPs of all parties at the prime minister’s plan to leave the single market and customs union, and the lack of progress in negotiations with Brussels. On Sunday around 30,000 people marched on Westminster demanding that the UK stays in the EU.

Adonis’s intervention also comes amid signs that opponents of a hard Brexit in all the main parties are ready to work together to amend the bill, both to ensure that the option of staying inside the single market is kept open, and that parliament, at the very least, has a binding vote on the final deal before Brexit happens in March 2019. The Observer understands that meetings about how to thwart a hard Brexit have already taken place between senior Labour figures, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalist party MPs and pro-EU Tories.

Full story can be read here.

Britain could remain under direct control of European court for years

Britain could remain under the direct control of the European court of justice for years after Brexit, it has emerged, and still be forced to implement the court’s rulings on vexed issues such as immigration.

The expanding scale of the prime minister’s climbdown over her promise to “take back control of British law” was revealed as the government published its latest position paper on dispute resolution before the next round of Brexit talks.While stressing that the range of options it contains are hypothetical, the government outlines only scenarios in which “direct” ECJ authority is eventually replaced by a new court or committee over which Europe maintains “indirect” control.

It has also become clear that the UK government is now open to preserving the direct authority of the ECJ throughout the interim transition period after March 2019 – during which it is expected to spend years negotiating a new trade agreement. News of the government’s evolving position has led to a growing political stormthis week, with Tory Brexit supporters claiming Theresa May is abandoning the hardline position she set out in last year’s Conservative party conference speech and in a speech at Lancaster House in January.

European determination to use the ECJ to protect the rights of its citizens and companies after Brexit is forcing the UK into a corner and threatens to derail talks in Brussels before the British negotiator, David Davis, can switch the discussion on to trade and future relations.

Speaking during a visit to Guildford, the prime minister said: “What is absolutely clear, when we leave the European Union we will be leaving the jurisdiction of the European court of justice. Parliament will make our laws. It is British judges who will interpret those laws and it will be the British supreme court that will be the arbiter of those laws.” The UK government is, however, prepared to enter negotiations about the role of the ECJ during the interim implementation phase that it admitted last week was necessary to negotiate new customs and trade relations. It is understood this may involve maintaining direct control for a limited period.

In the long run, the government draws a distinction between enforcement mechanisms and dispute resolution once the new Brexit agreement is in effect, arguing that individual complaints can be dealt with solely by UK courts and only government disputes escalated to the new arbitration body. However, test cases involving individuals appealing against unfair treatment by, for example, UK immigration authorities may quickly escalate into a dispute over the interpretation of the whole agreement, potentially allowing the ECJ to step in on behalf of aggrieved EU citizens.

The government insists there remains a meaningful difference between direct and indirect control, although it concedes that in some of the scenarios it outlines – such as in an agreement between the EU and Moldova – there may be little practical option but to agree to rulings from the ECJ or else see the whole agreement fall apart. It argues arbitration courts and committees are standard practice for the EU though and need not involve a direct role for the ECJ over national law in the first instance.

Sir Paul Jenkins QC, a former head of the government’s legal department, said the government paper contemplated a legal solution similar to that adopted by Efta (the European Free Trade Association), which has its own non-binding court. He tweeted: “If only those of us who predicted an Eefta-like solution a year ago had put money on it.”

Other legal commentators viewed proposals for “voluntary references” to the ECJ to interpret EU rules as a significant softening of the government’s red line over judicial independence in its Brexit negotiating position. The proposals were welcomed by Gunnar Beck, a barrister and EU constitutional law expert who also works for the thinktank Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project, which has adopted a pro-Brexit position. He said: “Today’s paper sets out an interesting and intelligent starting vision of future cooperation between UK and EU which more closely resembles other agreements between sovereign states rather than subjection to the European legal order.”

Mathew Rea, a partner at the law firm Bryan Cave, said: “This is a clear backtrack on the government’s previous stance that the ECJ would be a red line in the Brexit negotiations and that there could be no future role whatsoever for the ECJ post-Brexit.”

UK-EU freedom of movement to end in March 2019

Freedom of movement will end as soon as Britain leaves the EU, the immigration minister has said, as the government prepares a survey on the benefits of migration from the bloc.

Brandon Lewis also confirmed that the government intended to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands – a promise the Conservatives have failed to keep since taking office in 2010 – though he refused to say it would be achieved within this parliament.“Free movement of labour ends when we leave the European Union in the spring of 2019. I’ll be very clear about that,” Lewis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.

“Obviously, there’s a period of negotiation we’re going through with the European Union at the moment. But we’re very clear that free movement ends. It’s part of the four key principles of the European Union. When we leave, that, by definition, ends,” Lewis said.His comments appear to run counter to recent reports that the government is willing to allow freedom of movement to continue during a transitional period lasting three or four years.

The remarks are likely to alarm businesses, which would have less than two years to prepare for an end to free movement of labour with the EU. However, it could be that while freedom of movement technically ends with Brexit, the arrangements are still replicated during an implementation phase.

In a sign this may be the case, Lewis reiterated the Conservatives’ commitment to reducing net immigration to a less than 100,000 people a year, but he refused to say it would be met by the end of the parliament, claiming that it was impossible to do so while freedom of movement remained.

 

UK must agree implementation period for EU migration curbs – Lords committee

The European Union and Britain offered few compromises at their first full round of Brexit talks which ended on Thursday, and the pound fell on worries that British ministers were prepared to walk away without a deal.

While negotiators laid out their disagreements in Brussels, Prime Minister Theresa May met company bosses at home, with one employers’ group saying her government needed to engage in “sustained and structured” discussions with business over Brexit and avoid an abrupt departure from the bloc. Separately, academics warned of “widespread, damaging and pervasive” costs if Britain failed to reach at least a transitional trade deal with the EU before its scheduled departure from the bloc less than two years from now. At the European Commission, the negotiators laid out their opening positions in four days of talks that showed some common ground. But they also confirmed differences over how to protect the future of expatriate citizens, while uncertainty persisted over a financial settlement and the future of the Irish border, which will become an external frontier for the EU in 2019.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there was “a fundamental divergence” on how to protect the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and of Britons in the remaining 27 EU countries after Brexit. He said European courts should guarantee citizens’ rights after Brexit. “Any reference to European rights imply their oversight by the Court of Justice of the European Union,” he told a joint news conference with British Brexit Secretary David Davis. Britain, however, says people voted in last year’s Brexit referendum to end shared EU sovereignty, and its judges should therefore have jurisdiction.

Davis said the meetings in Brussels had provided “a lot to be positive about”. But when asked if Britain would accept the principle of a net payment from London to Brussels – and not vice versa as some British ministers have suggested – he gave no direct answer. Barnier called on Britain to clarify at the next round of talks in August how it would maintain a common travel area with the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU.

Both sides have said they want to avoid reimposition of border controls between the republic and British-ruled Northern Ireland. However, so far neither has proposed a solution to an issue that remains sensitive almost two decades after a peace deal ended years of violence in the province.

Full story can be read here

Theresa May under pressure to drop migration target after warning over Brexit recruitment crisis.

Theresa May has come under new pressure to drop her target to reduce migration after a report warned that Brexit is already causing recruitment problems for UK companies.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body for the recruitment industry, said the Government’s failure to outline a post-Brexit immigration policy was adding to uncertainty for both business and EU workers in the UK. REC’s survey of 607 employers found evidence that a growing number are taking on temporary workers to plug gaps caused by skill shortages. Some 87 per cent intend to maintain or increase their use of temporary staff in the next three months.

Kevin Green, REC’s chief executive, said: “Brexit is making the situation more challenging. In London for example, a third of people working in construction are from the EU and it’s difficult to see how firms will manage if their workforce aren’t encouraged to stay in the UK and continue to contribute to our economy.”

Mr Green added: “Decisions about the future immigration system are too important to be subject to political whim – we need policy to be built on sound evidence and data. Businesses need access to people to deliver growth, and that the current UK workforce alone cannot meet demand.” The REC’s “jobs outlook” report said the engineering, construction and education sectors could face unfilled vacancies in September or October.

Full story can be read here

Brexit talks must not lose sight of immigration issue.

We hear masses about a Brexit “Bill” and about the future role of European Court of Justice. But what has happened to the issue of free movement? Wasn’t this supposed to be one of the Government’s fabled “red lines”?

While Theresa May  in her manifesto renewed David Cameron’s vow to bring net migration down to 100,000 a year we have scarcely heard a thing on the subject since the election. There has to be a suspicion that the Goverment is preparing for a climbdown, that it is opening the way for a deal in which Britain would remain partially in the single market with EU citizens free to travel to Britain, to look for work here and to claim benefits here much as before. In fact the Government began to change tone subtly on free movement as early as the first week in April even before Theresa May made her decision to call a general election.

Speaking on a trip to Jordan, about as far from the political fray of Westminster as she has been in recent months, the Prime Minister started to talk of an “implementation period” in which free movement could continue to operate for an unspecified time. There has been a similar shifting of position in the Government’s promise to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already resident in Britain. There is widespread agreement that people settled in Britain should have the right to stay in return for UK citizens resident abroad having the right to remain there.

But there is the issue of a cut-off date: since when should an EU citizen have had to be living in Britain to qualify for the automatic right to stay? At first it was suggested that it should be the date of the referendum: June 23 last year. But the date keeps slipping forward. It now could be any date between when Article 50 was triggered – in March this year – to the date on which Britain officially leaves the EU, expected to be March 2019.

Full story can be read here

There’s going to be ‘chaos’ in the food industry after Brexit, report warns…

A report from food policy specialists has said that ministers need to establish a clear plan for how a new food system will operate. As it stands, the UK gets 31% of its food from the UK and the report’s authors have warned that provisions need to be put in place before Brexit occurs in 2019. The absence of a trade deal could push the price of imported food up by 22%.

Even a ‘soft’ Brexit – which would see the Uk remain in the single market or customs union, could badly impact the food and farming industries.Ahead of the departure deadline, there are thousands of pieces of legislation concerning food which require consideration, covering areas such as agriculture and fisheries.

Author Tim Lang, a professor from City University in London, accused the government of a ‘serious policy failing on an unprecedented scale’ for its handling of the situation. Mr Lang said: ‘The Government has provided next to no details on agriculture and fisheries, and there has been total silence on the rest of the food chain where most employment, value adding and consumer choice are made. ‘With the Brexit deadline in 20 months, this is a serious policy failure on an unprecedented scale. Anyone would think they want a drop into the World Trade Organisation abyss.’He added: ‘At least the UK entered World War Two with emergency plans. No-one has warned the public that a Food Brexit carries real risks of disruption to sources, prices and quality.’

These include a “clear integrated plan for UK food”, new legislation to ‘replace 4,000 pieces of EU law relating to food’ and subsidies to cover the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which the UK is expected to leave. The report, which is based on more than 200 sources, continues: ‘Prices, which are already rising and likely to rise more, will become more volatile, especially harming poor consumers.’

Full story can be read here

 

Brexit could cost UK Treasury tens of billions in lost tax revenue.

The Treasury’s official watchdog has highlighted the significant risk posed by Brexit to the UK’s public finances in a new report.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, in its Fiscal Risk Report published on Thursday, said that a possible Brexit “divorce bill”, which some have suggested could be up to €100bn (£88bn), would only be a “one-off hit” to the Exchequer and that the far bigger risk related to the damage that leaving the EU could do to the UK’s long-term growth rate.

It said that if Brexit ended up reducing the UK’s annual trend productivity growth rate – the amount the UK produces per hour of labour – by just 0.1 per cent over 50 years, the economy would be 4.8 per cent smaller than otherwise. That would be equivalent to a cost in lost GDP of almost £100bn in today’s money – which would translate into a £36bn hit to tax revenues.

The OBR said there was “no meaningful basis” on which to predict the outcome of the Government’s Brexit talks in terms of the UK’s future trade arrangement, and so it has not assumed any long-term hit to the UK’s productivity growth rate in its current official forecast. However, many private sector forecasters have downgraded their potential productivity growth forecasts for the UK due to the decision to leave the EU, some by as much as 0.3 per cent.

Berenberg Bank has downgraded its base-case estimate for long-term annual UK potential productivity growth from 2.1 per cent to 1.8 per cent due to Brexit. Combining that with the OBR’s estimates implies a £100bn hit to tax revenues over the next half-century.

Full story can be read here