The draft ‘hard’ Brexit law contains transitional measures for British nationals and their relatives residing on Belgian territory and provides in a temporary extension of the application of the rules on coordination of workers’ social security rights and benefits.
The Belgian government has taken the initiative to have Parliament adopt a ‘hard’ Brexit law in the hope the UK will allow for similar measures regarding Belgian nationals. Should this not be the case or if the initiatives taken by the UK are deemed insufficient, the draft Brexit law explicitly foresees in a possibility to swiftly amend the scope and duration of the Brexit law without the intervention of Parliament being required.
The free movement of workers will in principle continue to apply until Brexit. In the event of a ‘no-deal’ or ‘hard’ Brexit, British nationals will be considered third country nationals, who can no longer rely on the principle of free movement for workers.
Stricter requirements on immigration documentation (visa/work permit or Single Permit) would apply, which could affect recruitment from/to Belgium/UK.
Until 31 December 2020, the draft Brexit law extends the right of British nationals and their relatives, residing on Belgian territory on the date of Brexit, to stay on Belgian territory post Brexit. In addition, in the framework of the draft Brexit law, the federal Council of Ministers has adopted a draft Royal Decree to guarantee these British nationals’ rights to continue working on Belgian territory until the same date.
Note that both the draft Brexit law and the draft Royal Decree contain temporary measures only. They do not create any automatic right for British citizens coming to reside and/or work in Belgium after Brexit. The latter will be considered as regular third country nationals and are thus not automatically entitled to reside and/or work on Belgian territory after 29 March 2019.
In the event of a ‘no-deal’-Brexit, social security rights and benefits (pension, unemployment, sick benefits) might no longer be guaranteed as they are now, as the coordination of social security legislation will in principle no longer apply after Brexit. The draft Brexit law expressly provides in the extension of the application of the rules on the coordination of social security systems within the European Union, laid down in specific European Regulations. For the purpose of the draft Brexit law, and again only temporarily so (until 31 December 2020), the UK will be equated with a member-state of the European Union.
Employers should in any case keep a close watch on the negotiation process and future changes in (international) employment/social security legislation and be prepared to respond swiftly to any developments and review cross-border employment (expat-secondment) contracts between Belgium and the UK.
For more information, please see the employment section of our ‘Brexit & Belgium: Are you ready?’ page.