What are the Next Steps Before Brexit?

Published: Thursday, November 17, 2016
Steve Marshall

Following the UK referendum in June to leave the EU, Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May recently announced that the government will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, signifying the beginning of the country’s exit from the EU before the end of March 2017.

However, following the announcement, a legal challenge was subsequently mounted and won in the High Court by a number of ‘concerned’ British citizens who stated that the Prime Minister does not have power to use the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50 and start the two-year Brexit negotiations without the prior authority of the UK Parliament. Lawyers for the government argue that the result of the people’s vote in June was sufficient.

The government has now been given permission by the higher Supreme Court to appeal against the High Court ruling with a hearing beginning on 5 December which is expected to last four days. Judgment will be reserved at the end with a decision to follow at a later date which is likely to be in the New Year.

Planning Ahead

While the next stage of the Brexit process remains in question, businesses should be considering and planning for the potential impact of visa and immigration requirements on their mobility programs.  If the UK government decides that immigration is a key issue as part of the Brexit arrangements, it is very likely that free movement will end and far stricter visa & immigration controls will be put in place for travel and work for both British citizens in Europe and those wishing to enter the UK.

There are a number of advisory steps which HR and mobility professionals should be taking in preparation for the possible outcome of Brexit negotiations:

  • Record the profile of those assignees likely to be most affected, so that appropriate short- and medium-term planning for international assignments can take place.
  • Review upcoming intra-EU relocations that involve the UK, and/or UK nationals moving within the EU, and/or EU citizens moving to the UK. Keeping an ongoing record of these move types now will make future planning easier.
  • Alert senior management to any likely mobility related impacts that this could have on wider business plans and company objectives.
  • Audit all relocation policies and consider any likely areas of additional expenditure or cost such as Cost of Living Allowances (COLA), home/host compensation, shipping, and visa & immigration.
  • Build extra time into the assignment planning process, especially for any anticipated visa & immigration requirements.
  • Seek timely advice from your immigration provider as further information on the likely changes becomes available.
  • Ensure your relocation planning is in lock-step with preparations being made in other areas of the business such as legal, tax and finance.

Speculation will inevitably continue around the specifics of how mobility will be affected by Brexit and the lack of precedent creates a significant number of legal, financial and commercial uncertainties which need consideration. It’s important to keep in perspective however that any of these changes will not result in overnight changes and that there will be an appropriate period of time in which organisations can fully prepare and adjust to the new arrangements.