Freedom of movement Immigration control Rights of EU and UK nationals

On January 17 2017, in her major speech on Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that immigration control will be a government priority in the forthcoming negotiations following the invocation of Article 50 before the end of March 2017.

Freedom of movement

It is clear that the government will not seek to retain membership of the single market and will not continue to accept the 'four freedoms' of goods, capital, services and people. Instead, the United Kingdom will seek access to the European market through a new free trade agreement. Consequently, European Economic Area (EEA) nationals will no longer be permitted to travel freely to the United Kingdom to work, study, invest or retire. EEA nationals are therefore likely to face new travel and work-related restrictions on arrival in the United Kingdom.

Immigration control

May restated her commitment to controlling the number of people coming to the United Kingdom from the European Union:

"We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain - indeed openness to international talent must remain one of this country's most distinctive assets - but that process must be managed properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest."

May referred to the pressure on public services caused by high net migration, yet recognised that the United Kingdom benefits from skilled migration. No indication of the mechanisms for immigration control following Brexit has been given. It remains likely that a form of work permit regime will be introduced for EEA nationals, although the scope and architecture of the new immigration schemes are unlikely to be fully identified until progress has been made in the negotiations.

Rights of EU and UK nationals

May emphasised that the government wishes to guarantee the rights of EEA nationals who are already living in the United Kingdom ? and those of UK nationals in other member states ? as early as possible. Therefore, it seems likely that the government will press for the grant of permanent residence to UK nationals living in the European Economic Area, as well as EEA nationals in the United Kingdom, regardless of for how long they have exercised a treaty right before the date on which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. However, all EU member states must agree to this approach, so the uncertainty continues for those individuals who may not qualify for permanent residence under the five-year provisions before the date on which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

For further information on this topic please contact Ben Sheldrick at Magrath LLP by telephone (+44 20 7495 3003) or email ( The Magrath LLP website can be accessed at

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.