IoD: Business leaders will welcome clarity of intent on EU citizens

Responding to the Prime Minister outlining further details on EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU, Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:

“Employers will welcome the constructive clarity of intent offered today and businesses look forward to the UK and EU finally getting down to concrete discussions. Four in ten IoD members employ EU nationals to fill skills shortages and they are looking for certainty on the future of the workforce. Today’s statement still leaves some substantial questions unanswered, but will be regarded as a positive start to a complicated and difficult negotiation.

“An aim is obviously not the same thing as a guarantee. Even today, many of the important details are absent, including information on the registration process for EU citizens and when the cut-off date will be. More fundamentally, employers still don’t know what will happen to their EU staff if no deal is reached, questions remain as regards whether or what salary thresholds will apply for workers and their families wanting to remain in the UK. Many EU citizens work part of the year in the UK and part overseas, so will not easily be able to prove their right to remain due to interrupted periods of residence.

“The offer of a two year grace period after we leave for these workers to acquire their right to settled status is welcome, but two years may not be enough and five years would be better. The obligation on individuals who have previously received permanent residency to re-apply must be made as bureaucracy-free as possible, for employers and the individuals concerned alike. It will be essential for EU citizens to start preparing their applications soon, and we’d urge Government to lay out further detail of the process sooner rather than later so employers can help their workers navigate the process.

“The future status of EU citizens currently in the UK and British citizens in the EU should be the easiest – and least partisan – topic of the Brexit negotiations. It is also the EU’s first priority so failing to reach an early agreement will block UK negotiators from progressing to other topics. We would expect the Government to try and begin tackling some of this detail and guidance in consultation with employers as part of the forthcoming Immigration Bill. The clock is ticking and businesses are keen for negotiations to get on to the more complicated issues for our economy like trade and customs arrangements and a deal on future migration between the UK and EU.”

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