A No-deal vote welcomed by the UK self-employed community
This week’s surprise vote in the House of Commons to rule out leaving the European Union without a transitional agreement in any circumstances has been welcomed by the UK self-employed community, for alleviating the ongoing economic certainty that Brexit has created and, crucially, almost guaranteeing the ability of contractors to secure work in the EU in the short- to medium-term.
Leaving the EU without a deal would have meant British citizens becoming “third-country nationals” without any special migration allowances, leaving them in the same position as citizens of Russia, China or India: permission to travel to the EU and remain there to work would have required the acquisition of a visa and potentially work permits and other in-country registration requirements.
Although the EU has harmonised immigration requirements amongst member states to a degree, there is still some variance with regards permission to work, social security registration and other legal registration obligations from country to country, adding substantial bureaucracy to the prospect of contracting in Europe if not subject to freedom of movement. Free movement to the EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) would also have ended, although the UK had signed an agreement with Switzerland allowing for the limited continuation of the free movement of workers in the event of a no-deal Brexit under quotas.
The dismissal of no-deal by Parliament makes it much more likely that the UK will leave the EU under the terms of the existing provisional withdrawal agreement, pursue a softer Brexit that retains freedom of movement of labour, or substantially delay Brexit. Under the withdrawal agreement, freedom of movement would continue for at least two years, with any subsequent free trade deal potentially including provisions to ease immigration requirements between the bloc and the UK.
The news should now boost freelancers’ confidence in considering European contract roles. The Commons vote was not legally binding but it now looks incredibly unlikely that the Government will allow Britain to leave the EU without a deal, which should mean freedom of movement of workers will continue for at least another two years.
The freelancer group IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), which represents some 74,000 freelancers, welcomed the vote, but warned that the self-employed and business in general need a clear exit plan to provide requisite certainty.
Speaking on Thursday, Andy Chamberlain, IPSE’s Deputy Director of Policy, commented: “Last night’s commitment not to leave the European Union without a deal is welcome news for the self-employed – especially with our research showing 81 per cent of the sector oppose a no-deal Brexit.
“The reality is, however, that the self-employed and all businesses need more than platitudes: they need real certainty and a definite plan. Last night’s vote shows Parliament does not want to leave without a deal, but that’s still a definite risk if it cannot agree a credible plan.
“Confidence in the economy is now at an all-time low, and government – and Parliament – must act now to lighten this gloomy picture. Freelancers and all businesses urgently need agreement and an end to the uncertainty.”
15th March 2019.