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Brexit: What will happen on 1st January 2021?

At midnight on 31st December 2020 the current transition period will come to an end.  Free movement of people between the UK and the EU will cease.  With the exception of Irish citizens, EU nationals and non-EU nationals will be treated in the same way when it comes to entering the UK.  Anyone who wants to come to the UK to work, live or study will have to apply for a visa.  In summary:

  • EU nationals who are already in the UK will have 6 months in which to apply for residency under the new EU Settlement Scheme
  • Any new recruits from outside the UK will have to apply for permission to enter the UK under the new points based system.  It will be necessary to satisfy different criteria in order to qualify.  Points can be obtained for having a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor; having sufficient knowledge of the English language; and by receiving a salary of at least £25,600 a year.

The legal basis for these changes is found in the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020, which received royal assent on 11 November 2020.  The Act makes provision to end rights to free movement of EU nationals and their family members.  It also modifies EU legislation relating to social security co-ordination between the UK and the EU.

The resulting changes to legislation will pose a challenge to many UK employers.  The government says its intention is to treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and that it will aim to attract people who can contribute to the UK economy.  In response to Brexit, clients are encouraged to plan ahead, both in relation to considering future recruitment needs and looking after the requirements of current employees.