It was reported this week that the government was expecting that employers would be required to run “rigorous checks” on prospective employees from the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It has now emerged that the Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, provided incorrect information when questioned by the parliamentary select committee. The Home Office subsequently issued a statement clarifying that no such requirement will be introduced immediately after 29 March 2019.
During her appearance before the committee earlier this week, the Immigration Minister made an apparent error when indicating that it would be up to employers to check whether their prospective employees from the EU had the right to work in the UK. Moreover, her failure to provide any detail as to the nature and extent of those checks alarmed business leaders. Her comments were subsequently interpreted by many observers as new policy, and led to a state of confusion within the business community, with many business leaders claiming that she was setting them an impossible task.
The concerns expressed by businesses were well justified. There is currently no requirement for EU nationals to register when they arrive in the UK to work as part of exercising their free movement rights, and there is no mechanism for employers to check the date of their arrival other than to take the EU national at their word. In doing so, employers would risk being in breach of regulations if false information were provided, with the government adamant that it will enforce immigration law by imposing severe penalties on perpetrators.
The requirement for EU nationals’ registration will be rolled out nationwide once the government has completed the testing stage of a new settled status, which is currently under way in the North West of England. This registration will be mandatory for every EU national wishing to settle in the UK after Brexit. However, with less than 1,000 applications processed under the testing stage of the scheme thus far, and given the fact that it is estimated that around 3.5m people will require such a status, it is far from clear when the scheme will be operating smoothly across the UK. Although the government is seeking to have everything up and running before Brexit, it remains to be seen whether this will be achieved.
In a subsequent statement issued on Wednesday night, the Home Office reassured employers and the public that the government was committed to protecting EU citizens’ rights after Brexit, notwithstanding the outcome of the current negotiations between the UK and the EU. It also confirmed that employers would be required to carry out their usual checks when recruiting prospective employees from the EU, without the need to “differentiate between resident EU citizens and those arriving after exit”.
It is regrettable that a minister at a government department could make such an error when commenting on such a sensitive issue with less than five months to go before Brexit. Both employers and EU citizens currently in the UK are increasingly anxious for clear information as to their respective positions in the future. It is alarming, therefore, that such a senior figure has made such a contradictory statement at such a critical time.
Gherson has extensive experience in dealing with immigration matters for EU nationals. Should you wish to discuss the options available to you, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.