Connecticut, US

Oct 31 2018

UK Nationals’ Rights Could Be Limited in No-Deal Brexit


The situation

The French government is proposing to restrict the work and stay rights of UK nationals in France if a Withdrawal Agreement is not reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union by November 2018.

A closer look

The draft law would allow the French government to enact decrees to subject UK nationals to the following restrictions starting March 30, 2019:

  • Visa and residence permit requirement. UK nationals could be required to obtain visas and residence permits to enter and stay in France. Currently, UK nationals do not require visas and residence permits based on the general EU principle of free movement of workers.
    • Impact. UK residents already in France at the time of the restriction would be considered irregular residents since they would not have visas or residence permits. Irregular residents could face penalties and fines if they do not apply for regularization within a requisite timeframe and may face restricted access to healthcare and education, among other limitations.

  • Work permit requirement. UK nationals in France could also be required to obtain work authorization to perform any work activities not covered by a work permit exemption. Currently, they do not require work authorization based on the general EU principle of free movement of workers.
    • Impact. Employers could be held liable for fines up to EUR 75,000, among other penalties, if they allow a UK national to work without work authorization should these restrictions be implemented.  

  • Bar from certain regulated professions. UK nationals could be barred from working in certain regulated professions in France, including doctors and pharmacists, among others, since these are restricted to French nationals and EU nationals based on EU laws.
    • Impact. UK nationals would be restricted in their choice of profession and would have to give up their employment if currently working in any of the listed regulated professions, should the government implement these restrictions.

  • Social security. UK nationals in France would no longer benefit from the coordination of social security rules under EU law.
    • Impact. UK nationals’ social security savings would likely be negatively affected and they would risk double payment of social security contributions, and loss of prior accrued social security contributions. 

The French government has, however, guaranteed to mirror the protections to be available to French nationals in the United Kingdom whether or not a Withdrawal Agreement is reached by November 2018, and has guaranteed that it will coordinate with other EU countries’ approaches on these subjects.

Impact for employers

Employers in France who currently employ UK nationals cannot currently apply for work authorization for them. As a result, employers could potentially face a work authorization gap for their UK workers if and when these restrictions are implemented, until appropriate work authorization can be obtained.

Impact for foreign nationals

If the restrictions are implemented as announced, UK nationals could potentially be severely and abruptly restricted in their travel, residence and work authorization in France.


  • No-deal Brexit. A no-deal Brexit would occur if the European Union and United Kingdom cannot finalize a Withdrawal Agreement before November 2018, in which case the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union would happen without a transition period and without alleviating measures to cushion the impact of the withdrawal. The November deadline is based on the estimated time needed for the parliaments of all EU countries to ratify a Withdrawal Agreement in time before March 30, 2019. There is no specific date mentioned in November and it is possible that the deadline may be postponed, depending on various political factors.
  • Proposed restrictions. The French government submitted a draft law with the proposed restrictions to the French parliament. The law may be in response to UK announcements that EU nationals would not receive preferential treatment post-Brexit.
  • Other EU countries’ approaches. The proposal in France is in stark contrast to Dutch announcements that UK nationals would be treated respectfully in case of a no-deal Brexit. However, a recent German draft law on UK nationals’ rights during a Brexit transition phase could be read as similarly restricting rights in case of a no-deal Brexit. The European Commission urged EU countries to prepare for a no-deal Brexit in July.

Looking ahead

If no deal is reached, the French parliament would have to approve the proposed draft law, and further ministerial decrees would be required for the law to take effect, which typically take several months to develop.

Fragomen is in close contact with EU officials, national and regional authorities to keep clients informed. Fragomen advises employers to screen their staff in France and other EU countries to identify solutions and create contingency plans with sufficient lead time before March 30, 2019.

Please visit Fragomen’s Brexit microsite for more information. 

Fragomen in France is Fragomen France AARPI., operating as an immigration consultancy/law firm in France. 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 [email protected] / [email protected].