Prime Minister Theresa May announced the UK would take the first step in the Brexit ‘divorce’ process by giving the European Union notice of its intention to leave by the end of March 2017. The parties then have two years to negotiate the terms of exit. Equally significant was Ms. May’s announcement that her focus was on regaining control of immigration rather than continuing to have access to the EU’s single market. May told her Conservative Party’s conference: “We have voted to leave the European Union and become a fully independent, sovereign country. We will do what independent, sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration. And we will be free to pass our own laws.”” Access to the single market would undoubtedly require the UK’s agreement to continue free movement of workers which means that workers of other EU countries could enter the UK to work, and UK workers could go to other EU countries to do the same.
Prime Minister May also said existing (non-UK) workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law as long as she’s prime minister. Nonetheless, it’s an extremely uncertain and frightening time for EU nationals in the UK and for the 1 million+ UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU. Foreign nationals who have worked in the UK for at least 5 years can apply for permanent residence and many are rushing to do so.