Caroline Nokes, Tory minister for immigration, announced during an appearance during a home affairs select committee, that each firm that employs EU nationals will be obliged to undertake the checks to establish the eligibility of their employees' right to work in the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This has sent alarm bells ringing in more than one industry sector. The hospitality sector will be likely to experience the most significant impact as it is the biggest employer of EU nationals according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) followed closely by banking and finance.
Many employer groups feel that they have been handed an unfeasible task on top of all the other preparations for the impending split from the EU. Especially in light of the fact Ms Nokes' surprise new policy, which incidentally appears to fly in the face of the previous indications in summer that EU citizens would not require immigration checks.
When pressed by MPs a somewhat flustered Ms. Nokes had to admit that she did not know how employers were expected to make the required checks and that she would have to write to the committee on that point. Furthermore, under pressure from Labour MP Kate Green, Ms. Nokes was forced to admit that she didn't even know the nature of the checks required. She further conceded it would be incredibly difficult to differentiate between an EU citizen coming here for the first time and somebody who has been here for a significant period of time who is entitled to but hasn't, as yet, applied for their settled status. Yvette Cooper, Labour MP, asked whether employers would be expected to the admittedly difficult task of establishing the status of their employees and Ms. Stokes confirmed that they would.
The process for applying for settled status is in itself proving to be a challenge to the authorities. The system for EU nationals applying for settled status and the right to remain in the UK is still being tested, furthermore in the live trial of the application system there has been no agreement struck with Apple so the system only works with Android devices.
Ms. Stokes was informed in no uncertain terms that employers should know very soon exactly what they are expected to check. She indicated that in the many meetings she had attended with businesses that this point had never been mentioned. However, that was swiftly refuted by Mike Spicer who is director of economics and research at the British Chambers of Commerce, he commented "We've raised this as a source of serious concern for business communities given the shortening timeframe. Businesses can't plan on the basis of warm words; they need to see written in black and white directions from the government about how exactly this scheme will operate if no deal is reached."
Ms. Stokes then complained about the over-running of the session and that she was being kept away from important Brexit matters.
The commercial lawyers at Giambrone advise that employers, in consideration of the confusing information issuing from the government, may consider the best course of action is to take the initiative and implement a "status check" in their recruitment process and ensure that all their existing staff have the right to work in the UK.
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