Prime Minister Theresa May invoked art.50 of the Treaty on European Union on 29 March 2017 and gave notice to the European Council of the UK's intention to withdraw from the EU.

On 2 February 2017, the Government published a White Paper: The United Kingdom's exit from and new partnership with the European Union. The White Paper sets out the basis for the Government's priorities and broad strategy for the UK's agreement with the EU, including employment and immigration.

On 13 July 2017, the Government published the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (known as the Repeal Bill). The Bill provides for the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, which provides for the UK's membership of the EU. Under the Bill, EU law is converted into UK law when the UK leaves the EU, with the exception of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (specified rights binding on EU member states under the Treaty of Lisbon). Workers' rights under EU law, such as working time rights and protection for agency workers, will continue in effect after exit day. Therefore, employment laws are not expected to change as a result of Brexit, but afterwards will be subject to Parliament's control over domestic law.

The Bill confirms that from exit day, the UK courts will not be bound by decisions of the European Court of Justice and may not refer matters to it. The final court of appeal will be the Supreme Court. However, decisions of the European Court of Justice made before exit day will be binding on UK courts. The jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights is unaffected by Brexit.

The Government announced in the Queen's Speech of 21 June 2017 that it intends to introduce an Immigration Bill to repeal EU law on immigration, primarily in relation to free movement. Under the Immigration Bill, the migration of EU nationals and their family members will be subject to UK law once the UK has left the EU.

On 26 June 2017, the Government published a policy paper, The United Kingdom's exit from the European Union: safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU. The paper sets out the UK's proposed guarantee on the rights of EU citizens who are already living in the UK in return for reciprocal treatment for UK nationals resident in EU member states. The Government has proposed that EU citizens resident in the UK before a specified date (a date no earlier than 29 March 2017) will be entitled to apply for indefinite leave to remain, or "settled status", when they have five years' continuous residence in the UK.

In terms of timescales, the Government started negotiations with the EU on 19 June 2017 and plans to conclude an agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the EU before 29 March 2019. There will be a "phased process of implementation" after the two-year period to allow time to prepare for the new arrangements. The negotiated agreement between the UK and the EU will be subject to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force.

We will continue to provide guidance as the situation develops.

Practical guidance

Our new How to guide on Brexit sets out the steps that employers can take to prepare for the UK's exit from the EU and changes to immigration rules.


How to

Policies and documents

Audio and video

  • Webinar: Managing international assignments in an uncertain world
  • Webinar: Brexit - what now for HR? In this webinar, Darren Newman and Annabel Mace discuss what Brexit means for UK employment law, the impact of the leave vote on the immigration status of non-UK EU nationals living and working in the UK and what you can do now to prepare for the UK's exit from the EU.
  • Podcast 1: Potential employment law implications of a Brexit In the first of our special podcasts recorded before the referendum, Nicky Stibbs explains how EU employment law is incorporated into UK employment law, including what role is currently played by the European Court of Justice. Nicky also looks at the areas of UK employment law that might be in the firing line.
  • Podcast 2: The possible impact of a Brexit In the second of our special podcasts recorded before the referendum, Darren Newman discusses possible employment law implications of a majority vote in favour of leaving the EU, including how to manage concerns of EU employees who are worried about job security.

Commentary and analysis