The United Kingdom’s recent vote to separate from the European Union (EU) was a surprise move for many. While the impact Brexit (shortened from “British exit”) will have on global mobility is still not entirely clear, there will be no immediate change as Britain embarks on the two-year process of cutting ties with the EU.
“We won’t know for some time how this is really going to pan out, but at least we’ve got a decision,” said Nick Jackson, head of global mobility at Lloyd’s Register, in an article published by Forum for Expatriate Management. “There will undoubtedly be more administration for us in regards to immigration in particular, and I would expect many of us will see some shift in the countries we see our people going to as businesses adapt to a new order.”
However, Deloitte provided insight on some possible outcomes:
- European nationals could become subject to new immigration restrictions.
- A variety of trade agreements may need to be renegotiated.
- Scotland may push for a new referendum on its independence (in 2014 the country voted against gaining independence)
- The UK could adopt a similar trade model to other European countries that are not part of the EU.
While Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not part of the EU, they are part of the European Economic Area (EEA), and are allowed to access the single market, which permits free movement of goods, capital, services and people between EU member states. Switzerland belongs to neither the EU or EEA, but also has access to the single market. If Britain does stay in the EEA, it would be required to preserve free movement of labor — so in that case, European immigration may experience only moderate changes.
Change in some form is inevitable, however. Reports the Economist: “Britain’s next leader must explain to 17 million voters that the illusion they were promised — all the EU’s benefits with none of its obligations — does not exist.”