Brexit transition period confirmed but expats still have concerns

by Ray Clancy on April 2, 2018

The Brexit transition period will last from 29 March next year until 31 December 2020, it has been agreed after a series of meetings between British and European Union officials.

The deal confirms that EU citizens arriving in the UK during the transition will receive the same rights as those who arrived before the official date of exit.

(Lucian Milasan/

And Britons who head to EU countries before the end of the transition period will benefit from the same rights and guarantees as those who arrived before Brexit.

‘We agreed that British citizens and European citizens of the 27 who arrive during that transition period will receive the same rights and guarantees as those who arrived before the day of Brexit,’ said EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

But not everyone is convinced that this brings any kind of certainty for expats. According to Jane Golding, chair of the British in Europe group, the statement does not give real answers to real questions.

She claimed that the statement effectively amounts to saying that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. ‘There will not be legal certainty for the 4.6 million people most directly affected by Brexit until the agreement is finally signed off,’ she said.

A key question is what rights expats will have in terms of freedom of movement after Brexit and there are concerns that expats they could be ‘landlocked’ in their country of residence.

It does, however, give business time to plan, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). ‘Agreeing transition is a critical milestone that will provide many hundreds of businesses with the confidence to put their contingency planning on hold and keep investing in the UK,’ said director general Carolyn Fairbairn.

‘While some sectors may need more than 20 months to prepare for post-Brexit life, this is a victory for common sense that will help protect living standards, jobs and growth,’ she added.

One sector that could be affected hard by Brexit is construction. According to research from the Federation of Master Builders those currently employing EU workers cannot manage without them and believe they are good employees.

A new survey of the bosses of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms found that 94% of firms describe the quality of EU workers they employ as good or very good and some 85% of construction SME employers that employ EU workers say that these workers are important in allowing their business to maintain and expand its workforce.

And the survey also found that 76% of these firms say it would have a negative impact on the health of their business if any of the EU workers they employ returned to their country of origin, now or post-Brexit.

‘The UK construction sector is more reliant than most on migrant workers from Europe and at present, 9% of our construction workers are from the EU,’ said Brian Berry, FMB chief executive, adding that in London, this rises to nearly one third.

‘Given the severity of the skills shortages we already face, retaining these workers is business critical. Our research sends a strong and positive message from the construction industry to its EU workers. We’re now calling on the Government to step up and help us convince our EU workers that they are needed and warmly welcome,’ Berry explained.

‘We’re already seeing EU workers return home for financial reasons, or simply because they don’t feel welcome, so time is of the essence. The Government and the industry must do all that they can to put positive messages across to our vital and highly valued EU workers,’ Berry added.

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