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Bar Council comments on Brexit plans 16/03/2017

The Bar Council has announced the release of it's guide to Brexit, which calls for the unrestricted movement of EU citizens to UK jobs, whilst also defending the employment rights of UK Workers. 

In their comprehensive guide, the Council also suggests that the Government do everything within its power to defend London as the main global hub for financial services, and also that they need to create a real 'Plan B' in case there is no economic deal struck with the EU two years after Article 50 is full triggered. 

They have split the guide into a series of sections which each approach a separate issue that needs to be discussed in light of Brexit. 

Migrant Labour

The Bar Council’s proposals for a worker registration system would allow EU citizens into the UK without a visa, let them seek work without restriction, and give free movement to students, the self-employed, and those with means to be self-sufficient.

Chair of the Bar Council’s Brexit Working Group, Hugh Mercer QC said: “Our post-Brexit immigration policy must be able quickly and efficiently to fill gaps in the labour market, facilitate the supply of services, and stimulate entrepreneurial activity.

“The evidence shows immigration does not reduce the number of jobs available to British born workers, and it doesn’t lower wages, but the big worry for many people is that as a member of the EU, the UK has been unable to set its own rules.

“The Brexit Papers outline a legal scheme that will give the UK complete sovereignty and autonomy over immigration policy and allow the Government to control how EU citizen workers access UK benefits. It will also help the Government to identify the parts of the economy that benefit most from immigration and to set its own rules for refusing or granting admission to the UK where that is necessary.

“This is straight-forward legal solution that is capable of meeting the needs of British business and making sure that, on immigration policy, it is the elected UK Government that makes the rules.”

Protecting UK workers' rights 

The Brexit Papers also claim that key employment rights currently enjoyed by British workers could be scrapped if the Government does not transfer them when the UK leaves the EU.

Mercer said: “The Great Repeal Bill will bring EU regulations that protect UK workers into UK law, but that is only part of the story. Some employment rights are already part of English Law but have been interpreted in the European Court of Justice, and if we want to give UK workers the same rights as they have now, the effect of the judgments must be incorporated in to UK law too.”

“These include preventing employers from rolling up holiday pay with normal pay, which can discourage workers from taking annual leave. There could also be changes to discrimination law and the rules on compensation for workers who have been discriminated against.

"At present, EU judgments put an obligation on employers to justify pay gaps between men and women where they do work of equal value, but this too could be at risk. We don’t want UK workers to lose out.”

Financial Services

The UK’s top spot as the global hub for financial services is also at risk unless the Government creates a bespoke agreement with the EU to deal with the loss of the financial services “passport”, according to the Bar Council.

Hugh Mercer QC said: “Financial services make up 7% of UK GDP and directly employ 1.1 million people, two-thirds of whom work outside of London. Larger, firms cannot wait until the conclusion of the Article 50 negotiations to know what will happen.

"Many are in the process of developing their contingency plans on the basis that the UK does not remain a member of the single market and will no longer benefit from the existing passporting regime.

“Other mechanisms used by countries outside the EEA to access financial services markets, such as the equivalence regime and the emergent third country passport, will not fill the gaps created by the loss of the passport, and WTO terms, will not suffice.

“What we need is a bespoke agreement with the EU, replicating the status quo as far as possible and covering the gaps created by the loss of the passport regime. Any such agreement must also grant legal and other essential services sufficient rights so that they can continue effectively to support the financial services sector.”

Creating a Plan B 

The UK businesses face a cliff-edge if the Government does not agree a deal with the EU before the two year deadline, the Bar Council warns.

Hugh Mercer QC said: “A ‘no deal’ scenario will have serious consequences for UK citizens and businesses. Legal rights will disappear overnight and it would cause serious economic damage.

“Our trading relationship with the EU would be under WTO terms, which would mean an increase in tariffs on goods and services and uncertainty for millions of UK citizens living abroad about their rights to residency, work, healthcare and state pensions.

“The possibility of a ‘no-deal’ scenario is sufficiently real that we must have a ‘Plan B’.”

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