Members of Parliament narrowly passed an amendment during an emergency session today, October 19, 2019, to postpone the decision on whether to vote “yes” or “no” to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. Parliament said it needed more time to review the deal Prime Minister Johnson concluded earlier this week with European leaders. The primary aim of the amendment is to ensure the UK cannot leave the EU on October 31, 2019, the current Brexit date, without enacting detailed legislation governing the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Today’s vote effectively requires the Prime Minister to request a third extension of the withdrawal date, which would postpone Brexit until January 31, 2020. But the Prime Minister has stated he will not seek an extension.

The UK legislature plans to resume debate on the agreement next week, when the government will give lawmakers a further chance to vote on a deal possibly as early as Monday, October 21. EU diplomats are poised to meet Sunday, October 20, to address next steps, and the EU is reported to have said the UK government must inform the EU executive of its next steps “as soon as possible.”

Prime Minister Johnson’s deal will therefore be before Parliament again Monday. As reported by Mayer Brown in an October 18 alert, Prime Minister-Proposed, EU-Endorsed Brexit Deal to Be Vetted by UK Parliament on October 19, 2019, the draft deal sets out the timetable for a transition period; ongoing rights for citizens of the EU, the “EEA” (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, collectively), and Switzerland who live in the UK; the amount of money the UK has to pay the EU; and a special arrangement for Northern Ireland that would require customs checks on goods arriving there from elsewhere in the UK.

In terms of citizen’s rights and the movement of people, including the transition phase to 2021, there is no change to the previous agreement proposed by former Prime Minister Theresa May. As described in our previous alert, Brexit: Steps Employers Should Take Now (September 2019), freedom of movement will continue during the transition until a new immigration framework is introduced in January 2021. The EU Settlement Scheme will remain open until June 2021.

In a “no deal” scenario, employers also may expect that citizens rights and freedom of movement wlll remain the same as described in our prior alert:

  • EEA and Swiss nationals will continue to be admitted freely until the end of 2020.
  • EEA and Swiss nationals wishing to stay beyond the end of 2020 can apply under the European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme.
  • The EU Settlement scheme will be open to all EEA and Swiss nationals who entered on or before October 31 and will remain open for applications until December 31, 2020, and is available now for online enrollment for either settled or pre-settled status, depending on whether the individual has accumulated five years of continuous residence in the UK.