March 29th, 2017

Right to remain: EU residents likely to remain in the UK post Brexit

Theresa May has today triggered Article 50 which kick-starts potentially two-years of Brexit negotiations. With nearly 50 percent of our employees from EU countries, and a large international client base, we want to share why we and many others believe EU residents will be able to remain in the UK post-Brexit.

The Facts

Around 3.3million EU nationals currently live in the UK, compared with the 1.2m Britons who live on the continent. For these people the questions are many, the answers few and the timeframe long.

Mrs May has long claimed that she would like to guarantee the right-to-remain for the 3m EU nationals residing and working in Britain. But last summer she declared that she could not do this without getting a reciprocal guarantee for the 1m or so Britons resident in other EU countries – a fair deal in many peoples’ eyes.

The real worry is not whether to let EU migrants stay but how to process them. In practice nearly everyone agrees that almost all residents will be allowed to remain. Around 84 per cent of the EU nationals already have the right to stay post-Brexit, because they have been here for five years or more. Many are children who were born here or have a parent that already has the right-to-stay.

The bigger concern is the bureaucracy involved.

EU Residents in the UK

Annual net migration from Europe has more than doubled since 2012, reaching 183,000 in March 2015. Many consider this a boon: according to research from the Centre for Economic Performance, a think-tank, EU migrants are more likely to be university-educated, less likely to claim benefits and more likely to be in a job than the native-born population. Immigration from the European Union is currently boosting the workforce by around 0.5% a year. This has helped support the economy’s ability to grow without pushing up wage growth and inflation, keeping interest rates lower for longer.

“EU citizens living in the UK make a vital contribution to our society and economy. Without them, we would be poorer and our public services weaker.” – Mrs May. These comments by the Prime Minister echo her views on the importance of EU migrants in the UK, so we are confident she will do everything she can to ensure their right to remain.

Business and the country needs the contribution of EU citizens in the workforce so any bigger changes for people already here are unlikely, reckons Madeleine Sumption of the Migration Observatory.

Industries struggling to replace human labour with technology, would be left foundering without a ready supply of migrant labour. Britain does not train enough skilled construction workers to meet demand, according to UCATT, the industry’s trade union. Food businesses would be hard hit, too. More than a quarter of those who work in that sector are EU citizens. And without migrants willing to do the seasonal grunt work of plucking fruit and vegetables from the fields, crops would rot, unpicked, and supermarket shelves would soon be empty of British produce, says Chris Hartfield of the National Farmers’ Union.

With fewer new European arrivals, British firms would need ways of making up the shortfall. One answer, Eurosceptics say, would be to offer the jobs to Britons instead. But if they can’t be persuaded to pick cabbages, it could mean taking migrants from elsewhere: without European labourers, new seasonal worker programmes would be necessary, says Mr Hartfield. There could be other unintended consequences.

The Deadline & Outcome

One issue is the cut-off point for EU nationals who want to stay. Some have proposed June 23rd 2016, the date of the referendum, but this has no basis in law. Other leading publications are arguing deadline day to be either today, the trigger date or Article 50, or when Britain actually leaves the EU, (likely to be in March 2019).

Although it may come as a surprise to many who watched the campaign, the Leave side stated before the referendum that EU citizens who were “lawfully resident” in Britain would “automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain”. Depending on the deal Britain extracts from the EU, it is more likely that future migrants would be subject to tougher laws, or that family members of current EU migrants would not be allowed in to Britain.

We are going to learn a lot during the following weeks, as fixing this is Theresa May and the governments’ main priority. But whatever Britons decide about their future without the EU, migrants are unlikely simply to vanish.

Over the coming months (and years) we will share the developments of Brexit, and the likely impact of Brexit on inward investment and EU migrants. For more information please contact us on

This update is for general guidance only. Specific legal advice should be obtained in all cases. This material is the copyright of Goodwille Limited (unless otherwise stipulated) and is not to be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent.