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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

Brexit - what you need to know


New immigration system from 1 January 2021

The UK government has published plans for a new ‘points-based’ immigration system, to take effect from 1 January 2021, when freedom of movement between the EU and the UK comes to an end. A UK points-based system employer information page has also been published to support employers with the new system.

With EU nationals making up over 7 per cent of the UK’s workforce, and being over represented in low and middle skilled roles, the end to free movement will be a significant challenge for recruiters, particularly those who specialise in sectors more reliant on EU migrants.

More detail on the future immigration system and how to prepare can be found in this guide from Fragomen.

EU citizens who live in the country before 31 December 2020 will continue to be able to live and work in the UK as previously. They should apply for settled or pre-settled status before 30 June 2021.

For information about how right to work checks are impacted by the immigration changes, see our guide.

What happens next?

The UK left the EU on Friday 31 January 2020. There will be no immediate change to: 

  • Right to work checks
  • Immigration
  • GDPR
  • Employment legislation based on European law e.g. holiday pay rights

The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and EU (Withdrawal) Act 2020 contain provisions that effectively put any changes on hold until the implementation period is complete. However, the UK will not be allowed to take part in EU institutions, governance structures and decisions etc.

What is the implementation period?

From 11pm on Friday 31 January 2020 to 11pm on 31 December 2020 (unless extended).

The implementation period is a hold on the legal provisions between the UK and the EU. During this time the UK and the EU can negotiate on the new terms of their future relationship; largely based on the Withdrawal Agreement treaty and accompanying Political Declaration.

The treaty and declaration set out the administrative arrangements associated with the UK’s exit, the UK’s financial obligations as a withdrawing state and provisions confirming and protecting the rights of UK citizens residing in the EU and EU citizens residing in the UK.

They also contain provisions relating to the implementation, governance, dispute settlement and enforcement terms of the withdrawal and any transitional arrangements. Detail about Ireland and Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus is included too.

Please note, the Political Declaration is an aspirational text intended to guide the negotiations between the EU and the UK. It is not legally binding.

Could there still be a no-deal?


The UK and EU reached an agreement to enable the UK to leave the EU on Friday 31 January 2020. This is not an agreement on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. This is subject to negotiation between the UK and the other EU member states.

Because of the multiple extensions to the withdrawal period, the period for negotiation is now only 11 months. If no agreement is reached during the implementation period, a no deal is still possible and contingency plans may have to be implemented.

Previous guidance and legislation on a no deal may be relevant and the government has acknowledged that it would default to the World Trade Organisation terms for trade in a no deal. If you want to discuss further please get in touch.   

New policy paper on Immigration post Brexit

The Government has published a policy paper on the UK points-based immigration system, due to come into force in 2021. The document confirms that from 1 January 2021, the UK's new immigration system will apply to EU/EEA and third-country nationals equally. Irish nationals remain exempt. The guidance covers more detail on the new Skilled Worker system as well as more detail on other routes such as self-sponsored route for highly skilled applicants.

Speaking following the launch of the policy paper Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said:

"Getting immigration and skills policy right to address these needs is crucial for our economic recovery. Businesses need an immigration system they can navigate easily. In the next year, businesses will have to steer through the pandemic, IR35 tax changes, and prepare for how the future EU relationship will affect their ability to work abroad. For Government to pass the test being 'open for business', we need deeds - not words - in these key areas”.

To support members, prepare for the changes ahead the REC has been working with immigration specialist Fragomen LLP on a series of helpful resources. In response to this new policy paper we have produced a summary note for members to help them amend their mobility and recruitment policies to comply with a new system. For more information please contact

Beyond Brexit: The UK’s plans for a new immigration system

The UK government has now released plans for a new immigration system, to take effect when freedom of movement between the EU and the UK comes to an end. While we won’t see the detail of the system just yet, the Home Office’s policy paper contains a lot of food for thought.

Download now

In addition to the resources above, we also recommend these the UK government tools to help guide you and your business through Brexit including personalised action list:

 Brexit checker tool   EU trading webinars   Business support helpline