'Cliff edge' Brexit immigration policy will concern employers, says Hennessy

Out-Law News | 23 Aug 2019 | 1:43 pm | 1 min. read

Employers in the UK face a potential skills crisis in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit as a result of unclear plans over how migration to the country from the EU will be managed in those circumstances, a legal expert has said.

Joanne Hennessy of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, was commenting after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reclassified its international migration statistics to 'experimental' after it acknowledged that previous statistics it published on the issue may not be accurate. It said more people may have been migrating to the UK from EU countries up to March 2016 than previously thought and that, in contrast, migration to the UK from non-EU countries up to March 2019 may have been overestimated, it said.

According to the ONS' latest figures, EU immigration is now at its lowest level since 2013. EU immigration is "now less than half the level it was at its peak in the year ending June 2016", it said. EU net migration for the year to March 2019 was 59,000, having been at 219,000 for the year ending March 2015, according to the ONS data.

Corporate immigration legal director at Pinsent Masons, Joanne Hennessy, said: "While the reliability of this data has been called into question, the fact remains that the impact of Brexit is beginning to bite. In the absence of specific plans on how immigration will be handled following 31 October, we could be heading for chaos at borders and utter confusion about who can legally work in the UK."

"If EU nationals arrive on UK shores by 11pm on Hallowe'en they have a legal right to live and work here. But, following Priti Patel’s recent announcement, the same does not apply to someone arriving the next day. This cliff edge approach to immigration is simply not feasible given businesses need access to staff and do not have the mechanisms to confirm precisely when recruits have arrived in the UK," she said.