Nov 26 2018

EU Approves Withdrawal Agreement

European Union, United Kingdom

The situation

The European Council met in an extraordinary session on November 24-25, 2018, to formally approve the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to which EU and UK negotiators agreed on November 15, 2018. The 27 remaining EU countries endorsed the Agreement. The Agreement will now be subject to the political process of Parliamentary ratification in the United Kingdom and Parliamentary consent in the European Union.

A closer look

As a reminder, the Withdrawal Agreement has the following impact on EU and UK nationals:

  • Foreign nationals who begin residence before January 1, 2021 will be able to apply for status to confirm their residence;
  • Foreign nationals with five years’ residence in the United Kingdom will qualify for settled status, a version of permanent residence;
  • Foreign nationals with less than five years’ residence in the United Kingdom will qualify for pre-settled status, and should be eligible for settled status after five years;
  • Foreign nationals with less than five years’ residence in the European Union will be able to apply for permanent residence after five years.

Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relationship

A non-binding political declaration on the future relationship between the European Union and United Kingdom is annexed to the Withdrawal Agreement. This declaration gives an overview of the type of partnership the European Union and the United Kingdom envisage after the end of the Brexit transition period, starting January 1, 2021. The declaration contains broad and general wording overall.

Among numerous topics, the declaration includes a chapter dedicated to mobility, which primarily covers the below topics:

  • Confirmation of short-term visa-exempt travel for EU nationals travelling to the United Kingdom and vice versa;
  • Commitments on temporary entry and stay of natural persons for business purposes in defined areas;
  • Possible facilitated border crossings for legitimate travel;
  • Possible rules on social security coordination in the light of future movement of persons; and
  • Possible discussions about the conditions of entry and stay of researchers, students, trainees and youth participating in exchanges.

Despite claims that the European Union and the United Kingdom seek ambitious mobility provisions for EU and UK nationals after the end of the Brexit transition period, the language of the declaration instead indicates standard visa waiver arrangements and a free trade agreement with limited migration provisions. While some special rules might be negotiated for researchers, students and trainees, it is not yet clear whether these will differ from rules already in place in the European Union. Nevertheless, this declaration is non-binding and as such may be subject to change.

Looking ahead

  • Next steps. The Withdrawal Agreement and its Annexes must now be ratified by the UK Parliament, and the European Parliament must give its consent so the Council can conclude the Agreement. For an orderly withdrawal, the agreement must be ratified in time for it to enter into force before March 29, 2019.
  • Preparing for Brexit. Fragomen can assist companies to prepare for the immigration changes that Brexit will bring, to ensure that all EU and UK staff remain work authorized, and to devise strategic recruitment policies that take Brexit and the future EU-UK partnership into account. Brexit is also an uncertain time for employees, and employers can reassure them by helping their employees understand their entitlements, the process to secure rights, and deadlines. Fragomen can help by providing webinars, town hall presentations, FAQs, a video, guide and other resources.
  • Preparing for no-deal. It is possible that the deal will not be approved by the UK Parliament, leading to a no-deal Brexit. Employers can contact Fragomen to understand the impact of a no-deal Brexit and to create a contingency plan that mitigates workforce risks. Fragomen’s no-deal risk register sets out the risks in the United Kingdom and European Union and creates contingency plan strategies. Having contingency plans in place will ensure that companies are prepared for the Brexit post-transition period that would be secured if the Brexit deal is adopted on time. 

Please visit Fragomen’s Brexit microsite for more information.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to /