employment law UK

Options and Opportunities for Workers as Hard Brexit Looms

Opinions on Brexit are divided whether it will be good for native workers to find jobs or bad for their rights. Many on both sides of the Brexit debacle agree that a no-deal Brexit is the worst of all possible options, and yet that is what seems most likely.

Workers are suing to try and force a negotiated deal rather than crash out

Members of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) are making an urgent claim in the London courts to pressure PM Boris Johnson not to take the hard Brexit out on the 31st of October, citing that such an action violates the Benn Act.

This bill, otherwise known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Act No.2, gained the Royal Assent and came into force on September 9 with the express intent of preventing a No-Deal Brexit. It mandates that the Prime Minister request to the EU for an extension of up to Jan 31 in the absence of an EU exit deal and gives the power to accept any offered date. Not making an effort would be “self-evidently unlawful”, according to the IWGB’s lawyers.

This is in addition to an earlier petition by businessman Dale Vince, Queen’s Counsel Jolyon Maugham and SNP MP Joanna Cherry to the Scottish courts to force Johnson to ask for an extension even though he had previously stated he would rather be “dead in a ditch” rather than ask for yet another Brexit extension. This petition had been denied by Edinburgh, stating that there was no need for a coercive order to enforce compliance and they were not yet prepared to make a ruling.

If however the deadline arrives and Johnson has not complied creating and sending that letter of request for extension, he may be held in contempt.

But it’s all for naught as Johnson and Juncker takes the loophole

Ironically however until Brexit takes place EU law is in primacy over UK law in the the UK and any extension first requires that the EU entertains the requests. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, told the BBC “He and myself don’t think it’s possible to give another prolongation. There will be no other. (…) We have a deal so why should we have a prolongation?”

Mr Johnson said “The UK leaves whole and entire on October 31. Northern Ireland and every other part off the UK can take part, not just in free trade deals, but it also means we can take, together as a single United Kingdom, decisions about our future, our laws, our money and how we want to run the UK.”

This deal however still needs to be passed by both parliaments. If no action is taken, the UK is irretrievably out of the EU on that date.

What’s the Johnson Deal and how is it different from the May Deal?

Most of it remain the same, but here are the crucial differences:

  • The backstop is out.
  • Northern Ireland will stick with the rules of the EU’s internal market.
  • No hard border with Ireland.
  • Checks will be happening in the ports along the Irish Sea – in the UK’s customs territory – none in the island of Ireland.
  • North Ireland keeps following British customs rules.
  • The continued necessity of the agreement needs to be confirmed every four years by a majority of the North Irish parliament or, if unavailable, by both the Unionists and Nationalists parties. Thus, no DUP veto.
  • There will be no EU tariffs on goods crossing from Great Britain to North Ireland if the goods are to remain there.
  • There will be no EU tariffs on personal goods from Ireland to North Ireland, and special exemptions on goods for immediate consumption.
  • The UK must continue to uphold high standards on worker’s rights, climate, environment, and etc.

Many elements of the deal are still contested by different political interests and Johnson draws criticism for ostensibly aiming for a hard Brexit that would put the deal into law without need for confirmation.


What does this mean for UK workers and Worker Rights?

  • The EU Withdrawal Act of 2018 would convert EU law into UK effectively at the moment of Brexit to make sure there is no legislative hole relating to citizen and worker rights.


  • Any issue that could be filed with employment solicitors prior to Brexit should still be lawfully pursuable after Oct. 31. Claims on discrimination, unpaid wages and holiday rights and other concerns should be filed as soon as practicable rather than meandering on which court would decide the case.


  • Free Trade between the UK and the EU is critical for an economy strong enough to support many jobs and businesses without disruption from Brexit. The free trade agreement may be linked to the payment of the UK’s “divorce bill” financial obligations upon leaving the EU.


  • This is actually a good thing, as normally the payment of remaining debts and obligations and new financial agreements are treated separately according to EU regulations.


  • Businesses post-Brexit will be trading under WTO rules. Businesses that operate with a global supply chain will inevitably incur higher costs with imports and pass on these costs to consumers. In addition, companies may seek to cut operating costs via reducing employees.


  • Unemployment Income Protection policies are an attractive way to buffer against being made redundant. However, while unemployment insurance may help claim a monthly benefit that can keep the bills paid while you’re looking for a new job, not all policies are equal. Check carefully the fine print like choosing between a cheap parachute and a reliable one.


  • Agricultural workers and businesses after Brexit may face not just a shortage of workers but a slippage of standards as other countries in the Commonwealth may be preferentially sourced instead of the nearby EU for lessened tax duties.


  • Commonwealth suppliers however have raised concerns that even if demand increases they may not be able to provide the needed stocks for the food supply chain.


  • The EU UTP Directive for the protection of EU farmers must be replaced with a functionally identical UK policy. This Directive identifies and prohibits unfair trading practices between suppliers and buyers. Among others, it mandates that farmers need to be paid on time and not to be held liable for wasted food and orders cancelled on short notice.


  • An end to Free Movement makes it harder to employ the most capable workers and their special skills for your organization. Recruitment and retention is critical among non-UK nationals.


  • Right to Work checks are a legal obligation. New workers should be given a full right to work check before they start working. Companies employing foreign workers must carry out more complicated and slower global background checks.


  • Self-employed UK nationals in the EU will need to contact their local government and business units for clarification in their status.


  • If you are a UK or Irish national working in Ireland, there will be no changes in your official situation after Brexit, including the payment of social security.


  • The expected employment crisis after Brexit is fueling an aggressive hiring strategy. Many EU nationals have been preparing to leave the UK, while UK residents working abroad consider the worth of staying permanently.
    • “Frontier workers” who live in one nation and work in another represent a special interest that may prove a solution to skilled worker shortages. Working remotely is an increasingly attractive prospect for both workers and employers.


  • You should get email alerts for UK exit guides for your work or business. It is critical to get the most up-to-date information from official channels.