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Brexit: Business travellers

Movement of people post-Brexit.

Companies who send British-based workers overseas as business travellers to the EU (and EEA countries) after Brexit, may need to spend considerably more time on understanding the ‘immigration’ issues surrounding such trips.

Whilst nothing would change immediately, if Boris Johnson’s proposed interim agreement with the EU becomes law and the UK leaves the EU on 31st January 2020, the longer term situation with regard to such ad-hoc business travellers is less clear cut.

At the moment, UK companies can send employees to work in other EU and EEA countries on a very flexible, “problem-free” basis and with no real, advance planning being required.  Such arrangements are common for companies who need to send their employees overseas, for example, to cover short-term projects or with regard to “fly-in and fly-out” maintenance and service arrangements.

However, such flexibility would end either with either:

  • A “hard BREXIT” (e.g. because Boris Johnson’s agreement fails to get through Parliament), or
  • Probably once the proposed interim agreement has ended and the UK and EU have agreed their long-term trading relationship (which will (probably) remove the free movement of people rights presently available under the EU regulations).

Whilst it is possible that in either of the above situations, some countries would have a ‘practical’ approach to these business travellers from the UK – i.e. continuing to accept that they can travel on business to their locations without a work permit being required, companies should expect that other countries will be much more aggressive in such cases and insist on work permits being required.

As such, businesses who depend upon such intra-EU movement for their employees, should consider their options closely and consider planning for various scenarios in this regard. This could, for example, mean investing in additional HR resources to manage the work permit requirements that arise or even establishing alternative offices overseas in other EU states more flexible service to EU clients.