What is going to happen with immigration following the Brexit decision? In order to reach a Brexit deal on movement of people, it is likely the UK will have to enter into negotiations with the EU as a whole. It will probably be unable to treat French or German nationals more favourably in terms of UK immigration rights than those from other EU countries like Romania and Bulgaria.
Alternatively, the UK Government could choose to enter into bilateral agreements with each of the remaining 27 Member States. This would be complex from a legislative perspective and there is no guarantee that all Member States would engage with the UK.
There is likely to be substantial pressure on the Government to keep its promise to reduce overall inward immigration. In the event of a complete Brexit with no free movement arrangement, the 3 million EU migrants currently in the UK by virtue of exercising their “Treaty rights” would become subject to UK domestic immigration law. To be able to continue living and working in the UK, they would need to have the right based on existing residence rights or new visa rights.
One option would be for the Government to consider creating a new EU/EEA/EFTA visa specifically to deal with such applications and could use that visa to treat such applications more favourably than those from non-EU/EEA/EFTA countries but with more restrictions than is currently the case. One restriction would probably be on access to state benefits. But this would create an administrative burden for the Home Office and Border Control who would need more resources.
On the other hand, Brits who have settled in the EU will be subject to the domestic immigration rules of the countries in which they now work and reside. We wait to see how welcoming other remaining Member States would be to applications from those expats.
In the short term there is likely to be little change to immigration for the post-Brexit UK. But uncertainty is not a good thing for business.