Last week’s series of Brexit votes in Parliament could mark a profound shift in the trajectory of the UK’s exit from the EU. However, businesses still do not know when Brexit will happen (if at all) and what the UK’s relationship with the EU and the rest of the world will be.

In the space of three days, the House of Commons voted (i) on Tuesday to reject the UK government’s negotiated withdrawal agreement in the second so-called “meaningful vote”; (ii) on Wednesday to reject a no-deal Brexit, with even Cabinet ministers defying the Conservative party whip to vote against it; and (iii) on Thursday to request an extension to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to delay the UK’s exit from the EU. And if that was not enough, on Thursday the House also voted marginally against exercising more control over Brexit and overwhelmingly against a measure calling for a second referendum, with even supporters of a second referendum calling on MPs not to back it because it was not the right time.


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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.
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As the final Brexit date approaches, EU-member state governments are putting in place specific plans for British nationals living within the EU after March 29, 2019.  Earlier this week the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (“IND”) shared a template letter it will begin sending to UK nationals legally residing in the Netherlands regarding the continuation of residence post Brexit in case there is no withdrawal agreement ratified between the UK and the EU.  Key points contained in the letter include:

  • There will be a transition period (March 29, 2019 – July 1, 2020) during which UK nationals and their qualifying dependents will maintain their rights to residence, employment, and study in the Netherlands.
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Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement on October 1, 2018 that Britain will not continue to give EU nationals preferential immigration treatment after Brexit heralded the future of immigration between the EU and Britain. Britain will decide what the immigration requirements are for EU nationals. Speculation on whether Britain will adopt “US-style” visas for travel and work has been considered, and May herself already indicated that waivers of visa requirements may continue on a reciprocal basis with countries (or regions) with which Britain agrees to these requirements.

The principal import of the Prime Minister’s announcement is that after 2020, EU nationals will need to apply for formal admission requirements in advance of moving to Britain, and may also face travel visa or pre-registration requirements. What these requirements will ultimately translate to will depend on continued negotiations and the input of key business sectors  and stakeholders such as the Migration Advisory Committee.  
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On the day EU leaders gathered in Brussels to discuss the Brexit transition deal (March 22, 2018), Mayer Brown partners Liz Stern and Nick Robertson, together with Paul Sarauskas and Jad Taha, hosted the latest in our series of interactive workshops, “Preparing for the changes in free movement that Brexit heralds.”  Clients across multiple industries

The invocation by the government of the United Kingdom of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allows a member state to notify the European Union of its withdrawal from the Union, took place on 29 March 2017. A two-year negotiation is now in place, and 29 March 2019 is the official date on which withdrawal  – the “Brexit” – is slated to occur.   During this interim period leading to the 2019 withdrawal date, freedom of movement rules continue to apply.  We discuss below the changes envisioned and rank risk depending on the region and status of workers currently capitalizing on reciprocal citizens rights.

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