Love it or loathe it, 31 January 2020 is an historic date for the UK, as the country finally officially departs from the European Union (EU). With an 11-month transition agreement in place to last until 31 December 2020, and a number of negotiations still to take place, Brexit day is unlikely to be the cliff-edge event many initially expected, with the full ramifications not being felt until further down the line.
This means that some uncertainty still exists, and could continue in the months to come. The use and transfer of data, for example, which impacts pension schemes and benefits arrangements, is just one area in which final agreements between the UK and EU are still pending. Under the terms of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), personal data can currently be transferred freely from the UK to anywhere in the EU without the need for additional compliance measures. During the transition period, this will be permitted to continue; however, in the longer term, the EU must make an adequacy decision in favour of the UK for this to remain the case. If such a decision is not forthcoming, the free flow of data will end, bringing with it numerous compliance issues, and likely additional costs, for UK organisations needing to transfer data into the EU.
Following the end of the transition period, EU nationals looking to work in the UK will be subject to the same processes as those hailing from outside of the EU. The UK government is currently working on reviewing the country’s immigration system, meaning organisations are also still awaiting final policies and decisions on migrant workers. Earlier this week, the Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) published its report A Points-Based System and Salary Threshold for Immigration, setting out proposals to reduce the salary threshold for immigrant workers. Currently, skilled migrants from outside of the EU need to have a job offer with a salary of at least £30,000. The Mac report has proposed dropping this to £25,600 to aid the recruitment of skilled workers, such as teachers and skilled NHS staff, although there has been some debate around whether this is low enough; the government is due to publish a white paper on the issue in March.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the UK currently adheres to numerous pieces of EU employment legislation which it must decide whether to continue with post-Brexit or draw up alternatives. So while 31 January may be a day for commiseration or celebration, there is still much that needs to be done before we have a true picture of what life outside of the EU will really look like.