Expert Insights

Expert Insights

UK to end freedom of movement

Government proposal to end free movement for EU citizens on 31 October 2019 in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.

On the 19 August, media reported that the new Home Secretary Priti Patel is pushing for the imposition of border restrictions on EU nationals from 31 October 2019 in case of a no-deal Brexit. Currently EU nationals are not subject to immigration control and can freely enter the UK. This is due to end on Brexit but ministers had wanted to delay the ending of free movement until new rules and systems were in place but it would appear that Priti Patel is pushing for restrictions immediately on Brexit.

What does this mean for EU citizens travelling to the UK from 31 October?

If the Home Secretary’s plans are to succeed, EU citizens and their family members arriving in the UK from 31 October 2019 will be admitted under Immigration Rules and will require permission (leave to enter or remain). Unlike EU free movement, this will not be automatic and those who do not hold valid immigration permission to be in the UK will need to be assessed for entry at the border.

How would the Secretary of State’s proposal affect those living in the UK prior to Brexit travelling outside the UK?

EU nationals resident in the UK prior to Brexit have the right to reside in the UK following Brexit but there is no current border system in place to distinguish between EU citizens who would have been resident in the UK prior to 31 October 2019 and those who would be travelling to the UK after Brexit. Although it is reported that Priti Patel is currently in the process of making preparations for a system to be in place before 31 October 2019, we do not anticipate that this system will be running effectively.
With an inadequate system in place, there is a danger that some EU citizens living in the UK prior to Brexit without any immigration documentation to confirm their status, may encounter delays and confusion at the border when returning to the UK.

Our advice

In light of the above, we would advise that all EU citizens resident in the UK register on the EU settlement scheme prior to 31 October 2019. This is an online registration system set up specifically for EU nationals resident in the UK prior to Brexit. The application can be completed on an android phone and online and takes approximately 24-45 minutes. In many cases confirmation of immigration status is issued within a few days. The scheme can be used by any EU (EEA or Swiss) national in the UK with a UK address

  • We are able to offer assistance with registration as follows:
  • Workplace registrations where we can register 10-20 employees a day
  • Workplace seminars to advise staff on how to register themselves
  • Bespoke registration for individuals either at our office, their place of work or at home


For more information, please contact Rose Carey, Paul McCarthy or Katherine Dennis. 

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