Ben Sheldrick
Office:
22 Chancery Lane
WC2A 1LS
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 20 7317 6723
Fax:
+44 20 7317 6717

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Brexit

Ben Sheldrick is managing partner and head of business immigration at Magrath Sheldrick LLP, one of the UK's leading business immigration practices.

Ben is immigration counsel to many household-name multinational companies and he has extensive experience in strategic planning of global mobility programmes for large organisations, assisting global mobility departments and HR professionals in developing compliance and legal right to work policies and procedures. His team also advises individuals of all nationalities seeking entry to the UK as workers, investors, entrepreneurs, artists and performers, and for family reunions.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE PROGRESS OF THE BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS SO FAR?

Unravelling 40 years of European integration and creating a new basis for future EU/UK relations was never going to be an easy process. Progress has undoubtedly been slow and there is still scope for the negotiations to fail.

Most of the work on a withdrawal agreement has been done; however, there is still uncertainty around the position of Ireland and the “backstop” provisions. Of greater concern is the negotiation of the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Given the precarious political settlement in the UK currently, and the divisions in the Conservative Party, there is a real risk that whatever the negotiations produce will not be ratified, and at that point, we face a “cliff-edge” scenario next March. My sense is that all sides will pull back from the edge and a lot of detail will be ironed out during the implementation phase to 2020, but it is certainly going to be a difficult few months.

ARE YOU SEEING INDUSTRY SECTORS DIVERGE IN THEIR APPROACH TO BREXIT PREPARATIONS?

We work for a large number of professional and financial services organisations and there is a great deal of concern within this client base about the future regulatory environment post-Brexit. These sectors are working on both the preparedness and contingency aspects. While we believe an orderly withdrawal is the most likely outcome, within the context of the implementation period, contingency planning does require preparing for a hard Brexit scenario at the end of March 2019. The future arrangements for mobility of services remain uncertain. Other sectors, such as hospitality, which rely heavily on the availability of workers at the lower end of the skills spectrum are very concerned about the future availability of workers.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE LIKELY OUTCOME FOR THE 3 MILLION IMMIGRANTS RESIDING IN THE UK AND THE 1 MILLION BRITISH CITIZENS IN EUROPE?

I am optimistic that the rights of the 3 million EU migrants in the UK will be preserved in line with the announcements that have already been made. This will be the case regardless of a hard Brexit scenario. It would be administratively impossible and politically toxic for any other route to be followed. Equally, I think the 1 million British citizens in Europe will be protected. It is not in the interests of either side to use citizens as leverage in negotiations. The really big question relates to mobility and immigration arrangements from 1 January 2021.

DO YOU BELIEVE THERE HAS BEEN A SHIFT IN THE POLITICAL APPROACH TO IMMIGRATION IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS?

You have to remember that Theresa May has been the architect of UK immigration policy since 2010. Her government has remained committed to its net migration target – although the recent change in home secretary has produced a subtle change of tone following the Windrush scandal. The political class as a whole has to resolve the tension between the aim of “bringing back control” in line with the referendum result and the overwhelming economic evidence that the country continues to require migrants for a whole range of activities in the labour market. Doggedly sticking to an arbitrary target will not necessarily benefit the economy. A crucial piece of this jigsaw will be the Migration Advisory Committee report which is due to be published in the autumn. This will inform policy development in the area ahead of the White Paper on the future framework for immigration.

HAS THE UNCERTAINTY CREATED BY BREXIT BEEN ADDRESSED AT ALL IN THE LAST YEAR? WHAT IS YOUR FIRM DOING TO MITIGATE THIS ISSUE FOR CLIENTS?

The publication of the EU settlement and pre-settlement schemes has addressed some of the uncertainty in a positive way. We have been engaging with our clients on all of these issues since the morning of the referendum result. It is essential to engage with clients and continue to communicate with them as the situation develops even if the eventual outcomes are unclear.

THERE HAS BEEN MUCH TALK OF A “NO-DEAL” SCENARIO IN THE MEDIA OF LATE. WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE FROM AN IMMIGRATION PERSPECTIVE?

A worst-case scenario would see the UK withdraw from the EU on 29 March next year without transitional arrangements in place. This is very unlikely as it is not in the interests of either side but it remains a risk. As a matter of logic, and in the absence of a new framework for mobility between the UK and the EU, the current domestic provisions regarding “third country” nationals would apply. This means that EU nationals would in most cases have to qualify under the points-based system or through family connections. A cliff-edge scenario like this would cause chaos.

WHAT ARE THE LIKELY OUTCOMES OF TRANSITIONING TO A NEW IMMIGRATION FRAMEWORK OVER A TWO-YEAR PERIOD?

Much will depend on the outcome of the current negotiations on the future relationship. Assuming the political declaration on the new relationship occurs as planned in October, we will then have a clearer picture of the future immigration framework for EU nationals. This is likely to coincide with the immigration White Paper. I believe some form of preferential treatment for EU nationals is likely to complement a trade agreement and in order to meet the demands of the UK economy for migrant workers. Full free movement rights are not a possibility. I anticipate a scheme, similar to the current points-based system that provides for immigration permissions, and therefore control over numbers, while retaining the flexibility to adapt over time to economic needs and evolutions in public opinion.

AS MANAGING PARTNER, WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS TO DEVELOP THE FIRM POST-BREXIT?

Brexit is a complex business and complexities generate work for lawyers. We will continue on our trajectory of providing the best possible advice, guidance and service in respect of immigration matters whatever the outcome of this process. Immigration policy is one of the most important political and legal issues in the world today. In this context, there is significant scope for business development.

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Corporate Immigration

Ben Sheldrick is managing partner and head of business immigration at Magrath Sheldrick LLP Solicitors. He is also a director of Magrath Global (Singapore), which caters to an extensive corporate client base in the Asia Pacific region.

For many years, the legal community has recognised Ben as a leading UK immigration expert. He is ranked for his expertise in immigration law by the main professional directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners. He also appears in Legal Experts (published by Legal Business) and he is rated by Super Lawyers and Global Law Experts.

Ben has acted as immigration counsel to many household-name multinational companies. In particular, he has worked for a number of major City institutions operating within the financial services sector in London. He has spoken on numerous occasions to the International Mobility Banking Roundtable and other leading professional bodies.

He has experience in strategic immigration planning for large organisations and he assists international assignment departments and human resource managers in developing compliance and Legal Right to Work (LRTW) policies. This work has become increasingly important given the emphasis on devolved responsibility within current UK Tier 2 sponsorship policy.

Ben contributed to the development of the Points Based System (PBS) by organising and chairing stakeholder meetings with officials from UK Visas and Immigration as well as directors of PBS policy.  He hosts seminars annually with representatives of UKVI and stakeholders from the business community to discuss developments in Immigration Law as they impact upon business and high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs.

He is an active member of the International Bar Association (IBA) immigration committee and he has spoken at a number of their conferences, both in the UK and around the world. Magrath Sheldrick LLP is one of the main sponsors of the biennial IBA Immigration Conference held in London.

Ben is co-editor of The Corporate Immigration Review, an annual publication that identifies trends in global immigration law issues attracting contributions from leading immigration and nationality practitioners around the world.

Ben and his team work closely with British American Business (BAB) the transatlantic business organisation dedicated to helping companies connect and build their business on both sides of the Atlantic. Magrath Sheldrick LLP hosts two business immigration conferences with BAB every year where they attract well known thinkers and policy stakeholders in the immigration field. Past speakers have included the Minister of State for Immigration, the Chairman of Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee and the Consul General of the US Embassy in London.  Ben is a member of the BAB Policy Group and has helped draft their policy manifesto.

He has been closely involved with the Immigration Law Practitioner Association (ILPA) for many years and he has taught on a number of their training courses. He is also an associate member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and he attends the AILA global immigration forum annually.

Ben chairs an annual conference with the White Paper Conference Company on client focused solutions for business immigration lawyers.

Ben is particularly interested in the development of immigration policy and the way successive UK governments have approached the conflict between the need to attract talent and investment from overseas and the political difficulties resulting from a popular perception of the negative impact of mass migration and weak immigration controls. 

Ben and his team act as technical immigration partners to Expat-Academy, a leading industry forum for global mobility professionals. This year he will present a series of essential briefings on immigration law and his team will host a number of training sessions on global mobility issues for multinational companies.

Ben is recognised as a Thought Leader on Brexit by Who's Who Legal and speaks regularly to international businesses and other stakeholders on post-Brexit immigration policy.

Ben is a member of the International Association of Lawyers and the Investment Migration Council.

He also has a first-class degree in French literature from London University.

WWL says: Ben Sheldrick is "a very impressive lawyer" and trusted adviser to major clients from the corporate and financial services sectors.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Corporate Immigration which can be purchased from our Shop.

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