With the March 29, 2019 date for Brexit looming and no deal to address the separation yet approved, the House of Commons voted on March 14, 2019, to defer Brexit until at least June 30, 2019. The vote of 413 in favor versus 202 against provided a clear majority of 211 for the government, a move that may avert the expected chaos that a “no deal” scenario would pose.
By law, however, the delay can only be authorized by the EU, with unanimous approval of the leaders of the remaining 27 countries in the bloc. The prime minister faces a significant challenge in seeking that approval, as EU officials have said they will permit a delay only if Britain makes a fundamental shift in its approach to Brexit. Although the bloc could consider a delay to Brexit, it has made clear that after two years negotiating with Ms. May, it is not open to more talks on her deal, meaning the prime minister needs to find a way to convince British lawmakers to accept it.
The prime minister thus plans to make a third attempt to have parliament agree to a divorce deal — which the MPs have already rejected twice — next week, in advance of an upcoming EU summit. Lawmakers also rejected, by a vote of 334 to 85, a second referendum on EU membership.
For employers, the political ping pong ball of “deal versus no deal” has posed significant challenges managing their workforce and planning for the future. While an orderly transition for travel into and settlement within the UK is envisioned, including because of the positions taken by the government to allow for registration and settlement in the UK by EU nationals who arrive in Britain prior to December 2020, the reality is that no clear rules have been provided by the Home Office or port officials. In addition, in the absence of a deal, the fate of British citizens in EU countries remains subject to each member state’s rules as of the moment Brexit takes effect (with or without delay).
Employers are thus advised to remain alert to changes announced shortly, and to ensure that company managers of the global mobility function are kept apprised of upcoming cross-border assignments. Vetting of business travel and compliance with rules restricting visitor entries by duration and activity is also essential during this time of transition.