[LEGAL FOCUS] Legal news from the UK

Overview: what with Brexit, Covid-19 and other reforms, there have been some big changes in UK law

The legal issues arising from UK legislation

On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom left the European Union. However, until 31 December of the same year, the UK continued to comply with EU law and other countries worked with it to prepare their future relationships as well as the implementation of the withdrawal agreement.

As a result, in the space of just under two years, numerous reforms have been introduced, which has meant changes to mobility.



Nationals of the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland are now considered foreign nationals, and therefore no longer benefit from specific treatment.


The reform of the UK’s immigration system began on 1 December 2020 with the introduction of the new points-based system, and will continue until 2025. The new system applies to all foreign nationals who wish to obtain visas, residence permits and work permits.

Since its introduction there has been a stream of new immigration reforms.

On 1 July 2021, the new Graduate Route visa was introduced. It enables international students who have been awarded their degree to stay in the UK to work or seek work for 2 or 3 years, depending on their level of study. 

Since 1 October 2021, UE, EEA and Swiss nationals have required a passport to enter the UK. Only cross-border workers, beneficiaries of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), holders of an S2 Healthcare Visitor visa, persons with outstanding visa applications and Swiss service providers are able to continue to use their national identity card.

As of 6 October 2021, persons in the UK who apply for a visa or visa extension are no longer able to leave the Common Travel Area while awaiting a response.

From 1 January 2022, citizens of India and Iceland will be able to apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa.

The case of cross-border workers has also been addressed. Cross-border workers who already worked in the UK on 31 December 2020 have been able to retain their status by applying for a Frontier Worker permit before 30 June 2021. This permit is valid for 5 years.
Cross-border workers who arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020 are required to obtain a work permit under the new points-based immigration system.

Irish nationals are not subject to the UK’s points-based immigration system as the UK and Ireland form a Common Travel Area (CTA). This agreement enables nationals of the two countries to enter, travel, work, live in and access the public healthcare system of the other country without having to obtain a visa, work permit or residence permit.

EU and EEA countries and Switzerland have also introduced special measures for British nationals who were in their countries before Brexit.

Labor law

EU standards are still applicable and the directives in force before Brexit must be transposed into UK law. However, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals are now treated as third country nationals and as of 1 July 2021 are also subject to the updated procedure for checks to ensure someone has the right to work in the UK. 

Hence, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals may no longer simply present a valid ID document to confirm their right to work. Instead, employers must make right-to-work checks online before the hire is finalized. Until 31 December 2021, employers are not required to dismiss EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who had not submitted an application to the EUSS before 30 June. However, the Home Office states that before hiring an employee employers must now use the Employer Checking Service and the potential employee’s Certificate of Application to check that a valid EUSS application was submitted before or after 1 July 2021.

Irish nationals are not concerned by these checks as the two countries form a Common Travel Area.


Social protection

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and European Atomic Energy Community and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland came into force on 1 January 2021. In particular, it contains a protocol concerning social security coordination.

In September 2021, the Specialized Committee on Social Security Coordination set up by the agreement and authorized to modify annexes and amendments to the protocol updated the list of benefits not covered by the protocol.

This agreement also concerns Ireland.

On 9 September 2021, the UK and Switzerland signed a social security agreement. Since 1 November 2021, the agreement is provisionally applicable. It will enter into force definitively when it has been approved by the two countries’ parliaments.


The Covid-19 pandemic has added to the existing issues surrounding Brexit.

New measures were introduced in response to the fall in economic activity caused by Covid-19, in particular furlough schemes.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the government introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to support employment. This scheme was due to be replaced at the end of 2020 by the new Job Support Scheme (JSS). However, due to the evolution of the pandemic, the government announced that the CJRS would be extended, and the JSS was withdrawn. The CJRS finally ended on 30 September 2021.


Aside from the measures noted above, all linked to specific circumstances, as elsewhere legislation in the UK continues to evolve, in particular in the area of taxation.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is planning a reform of the tax administration system. One subject under consideration is the dates of the tax year, which currently runs from 6 April to 5 April. Two options are being explored:

  • 1 January to 31 December;
  • 1 April to 31 March.

The costs of such a change would be substantial. The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS), a body which gives the government independent advice on simplifying the tax system, appears to advocate the second option before later adopting the first.

Therefore, change may be coming soon.

Watch this space…