Brexit: The beast, the myths and the reality

The United Kingdom became a member of the European Union on 1 January 1973. On 23 June 2016, the UK electorate will decide whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union or leave. The outcome of this referendum will bind the government. There are currently 28 member states in the EU.

Immigration now appears to be at the core of the public decision making and has become a political scare mongering tool for many pro Brexit campaigners and point scoring politicians.

Right to free movement

Members of the EU can enjoy the right of, inter alia, free movement of people and free movement of goods and services. This right is reciprocal and therefore UK nationals benefit from the same right to free movement to settle and work in any EU state, a fact which appears to be lost on pro Brexit campaigners.

Scope of EU migration figures to the UK

It is correct that EU migration to the UK accounts for just over half of migration levels to the UK. However, it is misleading to look at these statistics in insolation. The figure includes “transient migration”, the vast number of EU nationals who come to the UK to work and study for a temporary period before returning home. The other side of the coin of course is a fact which has barely been mentioned by pro Brexiters, the vast number of UK nationals living, working and studying in EU member states such as Spain, Holland, Sweden and France. There are more than 300,000 UK nationals living in Spain alone. What will become of these individuals in the case of a Brexit?! No state has ever left the EU though Greenland voted to leave the Economic European Community in 1985. It is therefore difficult to speculate on the virtues of leaving the EU when none of the Brexiters have made any comparison. I personally have not seen any Brexit campaigners refer to the economic benefits Greenland has accrued since its withdrawal from the EEC?

It is also misleading to suggest that becoming a member of the EU is as simple as renewing an “oyster card.” There is widespread suggestion from pro Brexiters that Turkey will shortly be joining the EU. The fact of the matter however is that Turkey’s application to accede to the EEC (prior to the formation of the European Union) was as far back as 1987. Membership of the EU is subject to meeting numerous criteria and can be vetoed by a member state. Turkey is not going to be allowed to join the EU for decades to come, if at all, and the immigration threat allegedly posed by Turkey is complete fantasy.

Little consideration seems to have been given to the vast and increasing number of tourists, from the UK to EU member states such as the Czech Republic, Spain and Hungary; all popular destinations for stag and hen nights. There is credible suggestion that withdrawal from the EU and a vote for Brexit would invariably push up the price of travel to European destinations. Not to mention the fact that we would not be able to take advantage of the abolition of roaming charges to travellers within the EU in 2017 an issue which has also been overlooked by the leave campaigners.

EU nationals and UK nationals post Brexit

From an immigration perspective, the underlying and concerning issue for EU nationals currently living and working in the UK is “what will happen to me on 24 June 2016 if Brexit wins?”

Amendments to UK and EU legislation normally invoke a transitional period. In the event of a Brexit the transitional period will be no less than 2 years, for EU nationals living in the UK and exercising treaty rights. There will not be, as many people fear, mass deportation of EU nationals on 24 June. In terms of EU nationals wishing to enter the UK in the event of a Brexit, the likelihood is that EU nationals will require visas to enter the UK. This of course will also be the case for UK nationals wishing to travel to Europe.

The economic benefits for remaining in the EU are plain to understand – it means being part of a trading block with our close neighbours with whom we do 50% of our trade. The pro Brexiters’ arguments for withdrawing from the EU appear to be nebulous with far too much attention having been placed on immigration border control and not enough emphasis on the wider issues.

If you or your organisation needs immigration law advice on coming to work or settling in the UK or to apply for a sponsor licence for your organisation to employ foreign nationals, please contact our Immigration Team.

The material contained in this guide is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances and before action is taken.

Please contact:

Koshi Blavo Barna

DD +44 (0)20 7553 6002

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