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Brexit happens tonight: what are the immediate consequences for employers?

United Kingdom
Written by
Lewis Silkin, widely recognised as the UK’s leading specialist employment law practice.
At midnight CET on 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom will officially leave the European Union. What are the immediate consequences for employers?

On 29 January 2020, the UK ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ was approved by the European Parliament and the UK will cease to be a member of the EU at midnight on 31 January 2020.

What about UK employees working in other Member States?

The Withdrawal Agreement provides that EU law on free movement will continue to apply during the ‘transitional period’. This transitional period will in principle end on 31 December 2020, but can be extended for a maximum period of two years.

British nationals and their family members will be able to live and work in EU member states during the transitional period as before. Those who have exercised their right of residence in a member state in accordance with EU law before the end of the transitional period may continue to live and work in that member state after the transitional period. 

For country-by-country details on how immigration will be affected by the UK leaving the EU, please consult the Ius Laboris Brexit Immigration Survey.

In addition, the Withdrawal Agreement ensures that everything remains as it was with regard to social security. The current European coordination rules will continue to apply during the transitional period. Even after the transitional period, these rules will continue to apply as long as there is no change in the working situation (e.g. secondment or simultaneous employment) for the person concerned.

What about EU employees working the UK?

Permission to work will not be required until 1 January 2021. For full details of the UK Settlement Scheme and the procedure and conditions for residence for EU nationals going forward please see here.  

What about the protection of personal data?

During the transitional period, personal data can still be transferred to the UK as if it were a country of the European Economic Area. After the transition period, unless a new agreement is concluded with the EU, the UK will be considered a third country for the purposes of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In that case, the transfer of personal data will only be possible in the circumstances set out in the GDPR. The European Commission can, for instance, still make transfers possible by making an adequacy decision. If this does not happen, organisations will need to provide appropriate safeguards regarding the protection of personal data in another way.

The regulatory framework that will apply to situations beyond the transitional period remains to be negotiated between the EU and the UK.