On Wednesday evening, 2 Temple Gardens and Constantine Law hosted a seminar entitled ‘Britain Without Free Movement of EU Workers? The Implications for Law and Business’, in Inner Temple Hall. The event brought together leading figures in the fields of commerce, politics, and academia to speak about the future of Brexit and its implications for the Law and for Business.
The legal landscape was mapped out by Catherine Barnard, Professor of European Union Law at Cambridge University set the legal scene. “Even the cat at home knows about Brexit,” joked the professor, who used her meticulous analysis to explain the inner workings of the controversial EU (Withdrawal) Bill 2017.
Professor Barnard explained the three main aims of the Bill: repeal the European Communities Act, convert current EU law to British law and lastly, and grant the UK Government “Henry VIII powers” to change current laws. Barnard explained how the rights of EU nationals currently working in the UK will be preserved.
The second presentation was given by Dr Kay Swinburne MEP, Conservative MEP for Wales since June 2009. She candidly shed light on the inner workings of Brussels. Despite being on our way out of the EU, “we are still very active in the legislative process”. As a seasoned MEP, Dr Swinburne said that much of her work behind the scenes is as a ‘translator’ between the UK and EU. She noted: “even though they’re both speaking in English, they’re not always speaking the same language.”
Dr Swinburne explained “in Brussels, the word ‘compromise’ is not a bad thing,” and gave the audience her insights into the complexities of negotiating Brexit with 27 other EU countries.
And finally, providing what he described as a “real world perspective” was Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce. Focusing on the issues for Business, Dr Marshall highlighted that the supply of European labour is vital across the UK, and not just for unskilled jobs. “Businesses are not addicted to cheap labour or short cuts; if they can, they do want to find their labour from local areas”, he said, noting businesses import skilled labour from the EU because it takes time to train local people. Discussing the rhetoric around Brexit, Dr Marshall explained that although public opposition is high to migration in general, opposition is much lower to migrants working in nursing and specific sectors where skills are in short supply.
The seminar was chaired by Bruce Gardiner, Head of the Employment Group at 2tg, and Christopher Tutton, Partner at Constantine Law. Bruce and Chris spoke of some of the issues facing employment and immigration practitioners as a result of Brexit, and chaired the lively question time following the opening presentations. The evening ended with a reception over drinks and canapés, where the debate continued informally.
In reflecting on the afterwards, Bruce Gardiner said: “I thought our panel was broadly optimistic about the eventual Brexit outcome, despite the pessimism often expressed in the media. Overall, tonight’s event has made an important and constructive contribution to the ongoing debate.”
Christopher Tutton, said: “The panel offered fascinating insights into freedom of movement from the perspectives of law, politics and business. Of particular interest was the comment of MEP Dr. Swinburne, that despite the political rhetoric, there is a very high probability of the UK and the EU finding a compromise on an exit deal.”