Brexit – What we know so far

On 29 March 2019, the UK will leave the European Union. As we approach “Brexit Day”, business owners may be concerned that the understanding over the agreement is limited and there is uncertainty over what steps they can take in preparation.

As a significant proportion of UK legislation is heavily derived from EU law there is expected to be some impact on trading, worker rights and the free movement of people, regardless of the outcome of the ongoing negotiation process.

“Settled status”

In an attempt to respond to concerns from businesses regarding future workforces, the “settled status” scheme was announced in June 2018 to allow indefinite leave for EU workers. EU nationals who have lived and worked in the UK for five years by 31 December 2020 will be eligible to apply. Anyone who has not lived in the UK for the required period by this date can apply for “pre-settled status” which is automatically upgraded once five years’ residency is reached.
The scheme applies to individuals of all EU member states. Employers are strongly advised to encourage their workers to make an application before the cut-off date of 30 June 2021.

Existing worker provisions

Existing worker provisions will remain the same regardless of the outcome of negotiations, with areas where domestic law exceeds EU law also remaining.

Whilst it remains to be seen how far the government will seek to develop this area, what is clear is that UK workers will no longer be able to directly refer questions to the European Court of Justice. This removes a reference point for workers who are challenging the interpretation of European laws in their case.

The government has also released guidance on various aspects if there is a “no-deal” situation after the UK leaves the Union. The guidance states all pre-established worker rights will remain and workers will still be covered by existing insolvency laws provided they work in UK-based organisations. Future trading arrangements may require customs declarations to be completed, resulting in the increased employment of customs brokers or warehousing and logistics experts.

In the interim, businesses are advised to familiarise themselves with the current trading process with non-EU destinations. A no-deal scenario also casts doubt over the creation of European Works Councils, as the statutory framework for their formation is covered by European law and a separate reciprocal agreement may have to be made with the EU.