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World Sports Advocate
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Volume: 15 Issue: 4
(April 2017)

uk select committee urges government adopt flexible system eu migration uk governments exiting european union select committee third report

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UK Select Committee urges Government to adopt flexible system for EU migration

The UK Government’s Exiting the European Union Select Committee in its third report on its inquiry into the UK’s negotiating objectives for withdrawal from the European Union, published on 3 April 2017, urges the Department for Exiting the EU to continue making the argument in Government that the future system for EU migration needs to be flexible enough to meet the needs of the economy across the UK. The UK’s membership of the European Union has shaped the business of sport and how sport is governed and regulated in the UK, with significant factors including the specificity of sport, the freedom of movement of people and services, landmark rulings coming out of the European Court of Justice, and harmonised regulations. The decision to leave the EU has the potential to re-structure the sporting landscape in the UK, especially relating to the freedom of movement of people and services, which has benefited professional football, amongst others, enabling UK clubs to attract foreign professional players and enabling transfers into the EU.

“The Government’s position on EU migration post-Brexit is still unclear,” said Andrew Osborne, Partner at Lewis Silkin. “There have been some statements of general principles in the White Paper and from the Prime Minister but beyond knowing that free movement will end and we will continue to attract ‘the best and the brightest’ there is no detail as yet. The future shape of the immigration system will be determined in part by the exit negotiations but also by what is practically possible in terms of the current resourcing and structure of the system that applies to non-EU migrants. At the moment the Points Based System governs the entry of non-EU footballers to the UK and requires establishment at international level or exceptional talent. It is likely that a form of the current system will apply to EU players in the future and is likely to cut the numbers that qualify to come to this country and play. The top clubs and players will not be impacted very much but teams in the EFL are likely to find it harder to sign talent form the EU.”

The Committee states that whilst it agrees with the Secretary of State that immigration from the EU has made an important contribution to many sectors of the UK economy and that, while reducing net migration remains an objective of the Government, this should not be done in a way that damages the economy. “Future policy will be an important element in the forthcoming negotiations, given the linkage frequently made between ‘free movement’ and access to the Single Market,” states the Committee report. 

The Committee’s third report follows the publication of the Great Repeal Bill: White Paper on Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union on 30 March 2017, which presents the Government’s proposed approach to achieving a stable and smooth exit from the EU. The White Paper proposes the conversion of the body of existing EU law into domestic law, and the creation of powers to make secondary legislation to enable ‘corrections’ to be made to the laws that would otherwise no longer operate appropriately. Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, the UK Parliament will then decide on which elements of the law to keep, amend and repeal, which ‘ensures that, as a general rule, the same rules and laws will apply after we leave the EU as they did before,’ states the White Paper. 

“Theresa May’s suggestion of a period of implementation of any Brexit deal is some comfort as this may mean the current free movement arrangements continue for a period after the UK leaves the EU. However, the Great Repeal Bill will not address the rules of any particular governing body and these may need to be considered where they refer to EU membership - for example, the FIFA Rules on the Status and Transfer of Players permits international transfers for under 18’s in certain circumstances within the EU - whether the UK can be considered as part of the EU for the purposes of these rules after Brexit but while transitional provisions are in place will need to be considered well in advance,” adds Libby Payne, Solicitor at Withers LLP. “The White Paper makes it clear ECJ case law, key decisions such as Bosman, will effectively be incorporated into the laws of the UK. Whilst the UK Parliament can legislate to overturn such decisions, unless it does so, governing bodies may be limited in the changes they can make to their rules which would contravene such decisions.”

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