DOING BUSINESS IN THE EU


Doing business in the EU

Where will it leave EU workers if UK leaves the EU?

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How would the free movement of people change if the UK left the EU?

Of great significance to many employers is the current right of EU citizens to freely live and work across the EU, thereby supporting employee mobility, labour supply and flexible recruitment practices. In theory, if the UK were to leave the EU then citizens of other Member States would no longer enjoy an automatic right to travel to and work in the UK (and by the same token UK citizens would no longer enjoy EU citizenship rights of freedom of movement in the EU). In reality, it would form part of the negotiations for a new relationship with the EU, following a vote to leave, with the EU expected to demand some form of free movement of people in return for the UK enjoying free movement of goods.

A UK government will also be aware of the potential adverse impact on trade competitiveness and the availability of labour caused by severely restricting the free movement of people between the UK and the EU. However, it is possible that UK/EU negotiations might fail following a Brexit vote and the free movement of people might end, possibly to be replaced by the points-based type system currently applied to non-EU nationals but simplified for EU citizens and/or a patchwork of separate border controls agreed with different countries.  Whatever the UK were to do, EU countries would, in the absence of an agreement to allow free movement, be free to impose their own restrictions on UK citizens.

Would EU nationals already working in the UK have to return home following a Brexit?

Transitional arrangements would no doubt form part of any negotiation and some EU nationals may have acquired rights under UK legislation but it would seem likely that EU nationals already working in the UK would be permitted to stay in return for similar arrangements for UK citizens working in other EU countries.

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Andre Beukes LLM

Andre Beukes LLM

I am an International human resources consultant to multinational companies in international employment law and employee relations.

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