Brexit – phase 1 complete – the “breakthrough” immigration agreement

Brexit / 09 January 2018


In December 2017 the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd wrote an open letter about the agreement reached between the EU negotiating teams and the UK Government in relation to Phase One of Brexit negotiations. In summary, the following is agreed in principle:

1. Up until the “cut-off date” (‘COD’) of 29 March 2019 there will be reciprocal protection for EU and UK nationals.
– Up until the COD, EU nationals and their family members remain eligible for permanent residence after five years of exercising a treaty right (i.e. as a worker, student, self-sufficient or self-employed person).
– EU nationals who enter the UK in exercise of a treaty right before the COD can stay and exercise that right beyond the COD until they’ve accumulated five years continuous and lawful residence, when they will be allowed to obtain a new type of “settled status”.
– After the COD and during the implementation period (likely to be two years), new EU national arrivals shall fall into a “registered status” category. Thereafter, they will need to apply for a visa under new immigration rules.

2. A new “transparent, smooth and streamlined” digital visa residency regime will be implemented. EU nationals who wish to stay must apply for appropriate documentation. It will be free of charge for those who already have permanent residency documentation, otherwise the cost shall be no more than the fee for a British passport.

3. Irish nationals are protected under the Common Travel Area arrangements – there will be “no new regulatory barriers” and no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.


It’s expected that the new digital system will accept its first applications from September 2018 – the same time that we expect to hear from The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) regarding their assessment of the economic and social impact of Brexit, including recommendations for a future immigration system.
Brexit is scheduled for 23:00 (UK Time) on Friday 29 March 2019. This can be extended by agreement, not to mention Theresa May’s proposal to have a two-year implementation period, seeing us through until March 2021 unchanged.


“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” This agreement hopefully allows the UK Government to progress to Phase Two of the negotiations, but will only apply if a wider deal is agreed.


We will keep you updated. For the moment – employers should maintain their right to work processes. Employers should remain agile to embrace opportunities and to mitigate risk. There are things that can be done now to prepare for Brexit and the changes that no doubt shall follow. Contact us if you’d like to talk about this – we are always on hand to provide practical and commercial legal advice.


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This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email:

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