No-deal Brexit: immigration implications of abrupt end to free movement

Fear and uncertainty are the result of the latest UK government's stance on EU freedom of movement in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Rahul Batra, Managing Partner of the UK immigration law firm, Hudson McKenzie, provides an analysis of the situation.

Brexit concept - double exposure of flags and people walking on Millennium Bridge
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has said EU free movement rules will end immediately if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, stating the UK would not become hostile to immigration, however with a view to ‘democratically control’ the UK after Brexit.This comes across as an extremely harsh and reckless step, and to say the least lacking clarity.Under Mrs May’s regime, we potentially had options, which would allow EU nationals to live and work freely in other countries in the bloc, under no deal. One option was for the rules to be extended until January 2021, and another was to allow EU citizens to stay for three months before applying for a longer stay. However, Boris is set to take that away.In such a no-deal scenario, those EU citizens who hold a right to permanent residence in the UK which is granted after they have lived in the UK for five years should not see their rights affected. However, ending free movement without putting legal provisions in place for those who have not applied under the settled status scheme may leave those millions of lawful citizens in a dangerous situation of having their legal status removed overnight. An end to freedom of movement should also not affect those EU citizens coming for holidays and short trips but would impact those who wish to work or study in the UK.It is important to note that the changes to freedom of movement will not directly affect Irish citizens.

What are the repercussions?

There is a strong sense of fear amongst individuals and businesses alike that the EU will mirror towards British citizens in the EU, what we do with EU nationals post-Brexit. There is no doubt that if the Boris administration abruptly terminates the legal arrangements in respect of EU citizens, it will directly negatively impact on innocent British citizens working in the EU. It goes without saying that this uncertainty will hugely increase the damage caused by a no-deal Brexit.We need to remember that circa 40 million people arrive from the EU every year into the UK. Therefore, for the ports and airports that will mean enhanced checks if freedom of movement rules are abolished straightaway and will put quite a burden on the staff working at Britain's ports and airports.

Read more business reaction from David Sapsted:

Brexit: business anxiety over freedom of movement U-turn
If you would like to discuss this article further or have any general legal enquiries, please get in touch with our immigration lawyers on +44 (0)20 3318 5794 or via email at .For more on Hudson McKenzie visit

For more news, visit our immigrationBrexit and United Kingdom sections.

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