Over the summer the Government published its white paper on the future UK-EU relationship post transitional period, covering a wide range of issues including immigration and employment. On immigration, the Government stated that it recognises the importance of moving and attracting talent across Europe to support the global operations of UK firms and global investors. It suggested that business visits would continue to be permitted to and from the EU under new arrangements but for paid work in only a limited number of circumstances (perhaps in line with the current business visitor rules for non-EEA nationals). The paper also suggested permitting intra-corporate transfers across Europe, based on existing arrangements with other non-EU countries. Finally, the Government made clear that it intends to seek the secure onward movement opportunities for UK nationals in the EU who are covered by the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement, should they wish to change their member state of residence in the future.  There is little further detail on how migration arrangements could work after Brexit but a further white paper on immigration has been promised this autumn.

The Home Office has published an employer toolkit and briefing pack to support UK employers in their communications with staff currently in the UK who wish to apply to remain here under the EU settlement scheme.

On employment the white paper confirmed the Government’s intention to maintain current UK employment laws, so that existing workers’ rights enjoyed under EU law will continue to be available under UK law on the day of withdrawal. The Government proposes that the UK and the EU commit to the non-regression of employment law standards and to uphold their obligations that derive from their International Labour Organisation commitments.

This position is reiterated in the Government’s recently published note on workplace rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Minor amendments to the language of existing legislation will be made, to reflect the fact that the UK will no longer be an EU Member State. Only two areas will see a more significant impact: European Works Councils and rights of employees working on another EU state on the insolvency of a UK employer. Further details are set out in the note here.

Employers will also be interested in the technical note on data protection in the event of a no-deal. The Government confirms that in recognition of the unprecedented degree of alignment between the UK and EU’s data protection regimes, the UK would at the point of exit continue to allow the free flow of personal data from the UK to the EU (to be kept under review). In relation to the flow of personal data from the EU to the UK, if the European Commission does not make an adequacy decision regarding the UK at the point of exit, companies will need to identify a legal basis for transfers. For the majority of organisations the most relevant alternative legal basis would be standard contractual clauses.

As the clock ticks down to 29 March 2019, the UK and the EU are stepping up their preparations for the possibility of a “no-deal” outcome. From a corporate governance and risk management perspective, businesses that have not done so already should carry out a Brexit assurance process in order to identify all Brexit-related risks and, to the extent practicable, take appropriate and timely steps to respond to them. This article summarises at a high level the kinds of issues more generally that we are coming across in helping clients plan for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. It supplements our pamphlet Delivering Brexit: Putting Plans into Practice. To keep up to date with our latest Brexit analysis, subscribe to our Brexit blog.