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Calls for ‘dedicated visa route’ for EU contractors after Brexit

But confusion remains over UK contractors’ freedom to work overseas from 2021

As Coronavirus continues to dominate the headlines, you could be forgiven for overlooking the fact that the Government is also juggling the issue of Brexit, with Boris Johnson said to be adamant that the UK will not look to extend the transition period, which ends on 31st December.

A trade deal is yet to be agreed with the EU, and so the Prime Minister must work quickly to ‘get Brexit done’ - a tagline that will be remembered by many for leading the Conservative Party to a landslide General Election victory just six months ago.

One contentious issue in the Brexit saga yet to play out fully is immigration. While MPs have initially approved a plan that reports say will “pave the way for a new points-based system”, there have been calls for a dedicated visa route for independent professionals, to help the UK continue to attract highly-skilled contractors from the EU. 

This was an argument made by The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), that asked the Government why plans for a post-Brexit immigration system - designed to promote a “high skill” economy - do not include special allowances for overseas freelancers and contractors. 

The staffing association’s Head of Public Affairs, Tania Bowers, said that by making it easier for businesses to engage contractors from Europe, skills shortages “across many high skilled sectors such as engineering, technology, construction and life sciences” will be plugged.

She called for an “immigration system that recognises that the UK’s ability to attract world class brands to do business here – and promote its strengths when negotiating trade deals after Brexit-pivots on access to skills and a flexible workforce.”

While APSCo raise an important issue, UK-based freelancer and contractors are likely to want to ensure that any deal made allows independent professionals to continue working on projects in Europe in return.

This is the view of digital marketing consultant, Oliver Coates, who supports APSCo’s stance, but is also of the opinion that it mustn’t come at a cost to independent workers in the UK.

He said: “Freelancers and contractors offer clients flexibility, not to mention the skills needed to plug gaps to help businesses manage peaks and troughs in demand. And so, any immigration system after Brexit needs to make it painless for UK businesses to engage people like me but from the EU as and when they need to. I do, however, think it’s important that contractors from the UK have the opportunity to work on projects in Europe, so we can benefit too. There does need to be a balance.”

Following last week’s developments, the staffing body called on the Government to reveal its full plans for a “highly-skilled visa” and recommended that the scope of the “Start-Up visa” is expanded to account for independent professionals based in the EU. The body also outlined the importance of umbrella companies and recruiters being able to register as an employer, in order to more easily secure visas for agency workers.

While this could be considered positive news for recruitment agencies, UK-based contractors and representative bodies will no doubt be calling for greater clarity for independent workers hoping to take on projects overseas when Brexit finally reaches its conclusion. 

As always, Qdos will keep you informed.

By:Benedict Smith

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