The consequences of Brexit on labour law

On 29 March 2017, after a majority of its inhabitants had voted in a referendum to that effect, the United Kingdom officially informed the European Union that it intended to leave the European Union. With this official communication, the United Kingdom has initiated an irreversible process that leads to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. This has consequences not only for European citizens who reside in the United Kingdom, but also for British nationals residing in a European Member State. It also has an important impact on companies since the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the single market as a result of Brexit.

On 25 November 2018, the United Kingdom and the European Union concluded a draft withdrawal agreement. This agreement was amended on 18 October 2019. As both the European Parliament and the UK Parliament approved this agreement in January 2020, Brexit has taken place on 1 February 2020. The withdrawal agreement will then enter into force.

A political statement on future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom is attached to the withdrawal agreement. Both texts are published in the Official Journal of the European Union in all official languages.

Based on the withdrawal agreement, the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union as from 1 February 2020. As a result, the United Kingdom is no longer taking part in the decision-making process within the European Union.

The withdrawal agreement does provide for a transition period that starts on 1 February 2020 and runs until 31 December 2020. This transition period can be extended once for one or two years.

During this transition period, European legislation will continue to apply in the United Kingdom and to British nationals. For example, British nationals have the same rights in terms of residence, work and social security as citizens of the European Union.

The scope of the withdrawal agreement is not limited to the transition period alone. In terms of citizens' rights, the agreement ensures that European citizens who have built up social rights or reside in the United Kingdom, can retain these rights, even after the transition period. The same applies to British nationals in the European Member States.

Now that the withdrawal agreement has entered into force, the European Commission and the United Kingdom are negotiating their future relationship after the transition period.
 The agreements will take the form of international treaties approved by the Parliament of the European Union and the parliaments of all Member States. The political statement attached to the withdrawal agreement is already an indication of the content.