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EU Nationals Right to Work in the UK

On Tuesday 30 October 2018, the current Minister of State for Immigration, The Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP, gave a statement to other MPs in relation to EU nationals working in the UK, and their Employers being expected to check whether the EU nationals have the correct Right to Work in the UK during and following the Brexit transition period.

The statement provided by the Minister of State for Immigration is provided below:

Employers will be expected to check whether EU nationals have the right to work in the UK during any Brexit transition period, even though it will be almost impossible to assess this, and the nature of the checks remain unknown.

Caroline Nokes then went on to provide further details to the Home Affairs Select committee, saying that it would be up to companies offering jobs to EU nationals during the Brexit period to determine whether those applicants were eligible to work in the UK.

This information provided by Caroline Nokes, seems to contradict a press briefing earlier in the year, in which the Home Office indicated it would not require employers to make immigration checks on existing staff who are EU citizens.

On being questioned by MPs, the Immigration Minister conceded it would be difficult for employers to make such checks, given that long-standing residents from EU member states had a two-year period to go through the “settled status” programme, proving their right to remain and to work.  When asked how employers could be expected to make the checks, Caroline Nokes replied by stating that she did not know, and would have to write to the committee later.

The MPs heard that in a test of the settled status programme about 600 EU nationals had been processed from a total of more than 3 million people who would need to be assessed.  They were also told that the digital system allowing people to apply for the scheme only worked with Android devices, as it had not been possible to get an agreement for it to work on Apple’s systems.

While confirming that a promised immigration bill would “Turn off free movement” once Brexit happened – removing the automatic right of EU nationals to live and work in the UK – the Immigration Minister  said that determining people’s status would be tricky during the planned two-year transition period, whether or not there a deal was agreed.  This was because people had until March 2021 to apply for settled status.

The Immigration Minister went on to state that “In the intervening period of any transition period it will be incredibly difficult to differentiate between an EU citizen coming here for the first time, for example, and somebody who has been here for a significant period of time and hasn’t yet applied for their settled status but would be perfectly entitled to it if they were to.”

Asked by Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, whether companies would be expected to distinguish between the groups, Caroline Nokes confirmed they would, and went on to say that “As part of the right-to-work check, we expect employers to make sure that they are not employing people who do not have the right to work here.”

Repeatedly questioned on the practicalities of any checks, the Immigration Minister struggled to respond, at first saying she hoped “a pragmatic approach” would prevail.

“I’ve said that it’s going to be an enormous challenge for both employers and for EU citizens who do have the right to work to make sure that we get them through the settled status scheme as efficiently as we possibly can.”

All of the information from the statement made by the Immigration Minister can be found by visiting the following link, where there are also other links to Immigration information as released by the Home Office and UK Visas & Immigration.

If it is that your company have EU nationals currently working for you, or you are an EU national currently working in the UK, you can contact Eric Robinson Solicitors to discuss the details surrounding Right to Work checks further and also to keep up to date with us in relation to future Home Office information that will be released in relation to this matter.