Who will be allowed in once the borders close?
Who's in? Who's out? Who's still shaking it all about as we all do the Brexit border hokey-cokey? The immigration question grumbles on, as it's now been reported that EU nationals who want to come and live or work in the UK could be subject to the same rules as migrants from the rest of the world. Previously, part of the Brexit talks were the continuation of free movement for EU nationals, but it seems now that the British cabinet has thrown that idea out and is going for all-out border control for everyone, regardless of point of origin.
What does this mean for migrants? To be honest, we still don't know. As with everything Brexit-related, the situation changes minute by minute, so while the Migration Advisory Committee has now recommended that no preference should be given to citizens from the 28 EU states if the outcome is a no-deal, in reality businesses could start putting pressure on the government to make allowances.
Pick your own...
That's already happening, as the farming community explains just how hard it'll be to pick all those strawberries without any migrant workers, and how UK workers still seem reluctant to pick cabbages in January when it's minus-2°C in the fields. By the same token, there are claims that without migrant workers from both the EU and further afield, the NHS could face a catastrophic shortfall in skilled workers. Combine that with the usual winter struggles the Health Service faces, and pictures of hospital corridors lined with patients on trolleys could be filling our headlines once again.
The MAC's review also suggested that ministers get rid of the annual limit of 20,700 Tier 2 skilled worker visas, and open things up to medium-skilled jobs as well. They haven't made too clear what actually constitutes a medium-skilled' job as such, but there are already worries that it'll attract the wrong type of migration.
If overall caps are put on migration numbers, the influx of medium-skilled workers could severely limit the amount of Tier 2 visas issued, resulting in fewer, not more, highly skilled international workers.
How could it affect you?
If you're here on a Tier 2 visa then the chances are that (as long as everything is in order), you'll be staying with us for a while yet. However, if you're planning to come to the UK and don't qualify under Tier 2 then life could get more complicated. It all depends on whether your country of origin is willing to strike a favourable trade deal with the UK, and whether you're in what the UK considers to be a priority area, such as construction, farming, or hospitality.
The availability of visas post-Brexit will depend on a huge number of variables, not least of which is how the UK economy fares once we pull out of Europe. Immigration lawyers and specialists are trying desperately not only to keep up with current legislation, but to try and predict which way the wind will blow after March. Immigration (along with the Northern Irish border question) are the two largest stumbling blocks to a Brexit deal being successfully negotiated, signed, sealed and delivered before next year.
How much are you worth'?
Ask any small business that relies on EU nationals to make up its workforce and they'll tell you just how valued they are.
For businesses who have sponsored migrants, the paperwork could be about to get very complicated indeed. If you're a business owner or employer and you're not sure about the status of your workers, now is the time to talk to a legal expert. If you're in the UK on a visa then it may also be time to get some expert advice on how secure you are earlier rather than later.
Clearly, there isn't going to be a mass exodus after March, but as the UK border control system is notorious for its ability to come to a grinding halt at the slightest provocation, it may be wiser to get all your ducks in a row before they close the gates in March.
John Stebbing is a Solicitor and Consultant in the Family Law Department and can be contacted on 01323 434415 by email email@example.com