Comments by Sanwar Ali:
Today at 11 pm UK time the Brexit transitional period ends. Newly arriving EU citizen migrants to the UK from tomorrow will come under the expensive and bureaucratic UK visa points based immigration system. EU citizens already in the UK can stay and British citizens living in EU countries should be able to keep their residence status. Many people will be relieved to hear that the free trade agreement between the UK and the EU was agreed on 24 December 2020. This will hopefully minimise disruption in trade between the UK and the EU. It has been suggested that prices in shops in the UK should not change that much.
The European Commission (EC) recently published the draft text of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement which was agreed on the 24th December 2020. The draft details three main pillars within the agreement, namely a Free Trade Agreement, a new partnership for citizens’ security and a horizontal agreement on Governance. The agreement, 1246 pages long, outlines several provisions including judicial cooperation in criminal matters and aviation.
The agreement was finally reached following a phone call between Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK, and Ursula Von De Layon, President of the European Commission. Ursula Von De Layon, stated that:
“It was worth fighting for this deal because we now have a fair and balanced agreement with the UK, which will protect our European interests, ensure fair competition, and provide much needed predictability for our fishing communities. Finally, we can leave Brexit behind us and look to the future. Europe is now moving on.”
Free movement for EU citizens to the UK ends after today
Free movement between the UK and the EU will come to an end today 31 December 2020 at 11pm. EU citizens will need to come under the new UK points-based system for immigration into the UK introduced on 1 December 2020 and those coming from overseas.
The Agreement provides clarity to businesses and individuals of the grounds under which business activity can continue following the end of the transition period. The Agreement categorizes individuals into short-term business visitors; business visitors for establishment purposes; intra-corporate transferees; contractual service suppliers; and independent professionals. The Parties have agreed not to impose market access restrictions (such as economic needs tests) or discriminatory barriers on business persons falling into these categories. The free trade agreement also provided information on the length of stay. It is claimed that the government’s new immigration policy will make sure that “the best and brightest talent” will be allowed entry into the UK.
The loss of free movement between the UK and EU will also affect Britons, meaning that Briton’s will now have to use a visa-waiver program in order to travel to the EU for short stays. For long-stays, Britons will now also have to rely on the national right to work rules of the relevant EU country.
The Northern Ireland Protocol and EU Agreement
There is already another agreement between the EU and Northern Ireland. The purpose of the protocol is to prevent the border hardening in Ireland and to also strengthen the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, that was agreed between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland will remain a part of the EU’s single market and Northern Ireland will be applying EU customs at its borders. As Great Britain will no longer be in the EU, this protocol now means that goods arriving to Northern Ireland from Great Britain will be checked according to EU customs as of 1 January 2021.
The protocol does not cover immigration, which means that the proposed UK immigration system will apply in Northern Ireland also. This highlights major disruption between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland. It is said that over half of the employees in some of the businesses in Northern Ireland are EU nationals and some of these businesses may consider moving to Ireland. EU citizens who currently reside in Northern Ireland can apply for pre-settled or settled status.
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