Not a good start to my day. I’m on the train reading one of the many stories of EU nationals packing and leaving Britain. This time is a French woman, a mother and grandmother of UK-born children, who lives in the Canterbury district and feels forced out of the country – and away from her family – because of discrimination sparked by Brexit. I feel a mix of sadness and anger. While early on it was mostly stories of racism, now they talk of employers who refuse to appoint fully qualified EU nationals, banks that reject mortgages forcing EU nationals out of the housing market. Often they are presented as stories of discrimination, in breach of the law, but is this always the case? In other words, are instead employers and banks sticking to the letter of the law, perhaps especially rigidly? If yes, should we perhaps refocus our blame on others? Those who are using the EU nationals as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations?
By extension, I have here a genuine (and personally very unsettling and stressful) question for lawyer friends: is it the case that things being as they are (and leaving aside various reassurances that everything will be fine) from March 2019, all EU nationals (including those who applied and were certified their Permanent Residence) are becoming de jure in breach of immigration law and, as a consequence, their employers made (potentially) subject to sanctions if they continue employing them (as per Immigration and Asylum Act)?
If this is the case, will employers be forced, as early as December 2018 depending on notice periods, that their employment will be terminated in March 2019? ‘Everything will be fine’, people like Daniel Hannan or Jacob Rees-Mogg tell you. Honestly, it may be fine for them, but I am less and less confident for the rest of us.