In good news for EEA migrants based in the UK, the negotiations between Britain and the European Union have finally settled on the transitional period within which the UK will extract itself from the European Union. Rather than the two years that many thought it would be is, the period is now a little shorter. It should still give the UK and the EU sufficient time to finish discussions on Britain’s exit deal from the trading bloc effectively bringing to an end Britain’s more than 40 years membership inside the Union.
The announcement which was a central part of a press conference headed by the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and Britain’s Brexit Secretary David Davis signals what many believe to be the end of the beginning as far as Brexit is concerned. The announcement has not quite sorted out everything that is on the table and there are still many items on the agenda that will need sorting before the end of the transitional period. Chiefly among these and importantly for EEA migrants, is how freedom of movement will be dealt with going forward. Currently the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is still a big sticking point with neither side willing to move. The Republic has so far opposed the firming up of a border between the two countries and as it stands it appears that the Northern Irish people will be in limbo somewhere between being in Europe and being British.
It does appear that there has been some movement on freedom of movement, but this has not yet been confirmed by either side and it will all be clearer once the documents are made available to the public. It is hard to comment further, but it is widely believed that freedom of movement to some extent will remain after the transitional period. This will likely be in exchange for access to single market if the UK does remain in the single market and keeps freedom of movement then for many brexiteers the whole process simply would not have been worth it the economic damage that will potentially be done to Britain. With Britain essentially having an EEA agreement similar to what Norway and Switzerland already have with the Union in order for free market access, this will not be the killer blow that they were looking for.
The news that freedom of movement may indeed continue after Brexit will be a welcome relief to many in the UK who are worried about their future. Those who are based in the UK will be looking on with slightly less trepidation than they once were. It will also shore up the view of those that would look to move to the UK. The lack of certainty on their future would have made the UK significantly less likely as a target to move to and there’s no doubt that the British brand has been damaged. The announcement has helped to boost the value of the pound and has brought some welcome surety to many who fear the idea of a future that Britain would have if there was no relationship whatsoever with the European Union going forward.