On Friday last, it was announced, very early in the morning, that the UK had reached an agreement with the EU on the status of EU workers in the UK after BREXIT (and UK workers in the EU).
So, what exactly has been agreed, and is it a cause for celebration for UK manufacturers?
Anyone following this slow-motion, start-stop, negotiation will know that the UK came up with a serious and fair offer, (that’s what the UK government called it), for EU nationals in the UK. The essential part was that EU nationals, resident in the UK for 5 years, could remain and gain permanent status. The catch? Well, many, but the main one was that the individual had to be in the UK and have their 5 years before a cut-off date, which could have been any date between March 2017 and March 2019.
This has now been put to rest – so, any EU national who is resident in the UK before BREXIT (29th March 2019 in the UK) can remain, but will need to register and obtain a new status. As long as they apply before March 2021, that is all they need to do. Refusals will essentially be those who are ineligible (mostly as they are not from the EU) or who have committed a serious crime. Those who have their 5 years in the UK will get their permanent status and those who don’t will get a permission to remain until they have their 5 years.
So far, so good.
Family and dependents rights continue as they are, but everyone needs to submit an individual application and the cost will be lowish – passport application level. There is lots of detail on dancing around the issue of the Court of Justice, maintaining Euro Health Insurance and social security but the real issue for UK manufacturers will be – is this going to make a sufficient difference to their EU workers?
Official UK data shows EU nationals leaving in greater numbers and fewer arriving – all since the referendum. This has been reflection in EEF's own research earlier this year showed that over a quarter (26%) of manufacturers had seen a decrease in job applications from EU nationals and 16% had seen an increase in the number of EU nationals leaving their business.
Should we be surprised? Many EU nationals feel uncertain about where the UK will sit when it leaves the EU, and the European economy has picked up recently. Throw in the devaluation of the UK pound and it’s not a certainty that Friday’s deal (it’s not actually a deal until this coming Friday when the EU Council meets) is going to convince EU nationals that BREXIT does not mean exit as far as they are concerned - they will still be singled out as a group who need to register and apply to stay here.
So, if you’re reading this and you are an employer with EU workers, what should you be doing?
In a word, communicating. Tell then what’s said above – the top part that is. All those resident in the UK before BREXIT day, their families and dependents, can remain on pretty much the same terms (it’s unlikely that they would know or care about the details of the differences), and the only thing they need to do is apply before March 2021 at fairly low cost to them. If they want to, the system for applications will open next year.
So, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the UK to its EU workers and please do come back to work in the UK in 2018. We both want and need you.
How do you manage the migration exit from Brexit?
Watch our webinar on action your company can take now to manage the migration exit from Brexit here
Have your say on EU migration matters: If you are a manufacturing company and would like to have your say on these issues please contact Kieren Liu at firstname.lastname@example.org. EEF welcome both EEF members and non-members.