Strategic Research Sponsor of the American Bar Association's Section of International Law
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 immigration at Magrath LLP Solicitors. He is also a director of Magrath Global (Singapore). He is recognised as a leading immigration expert by all of the major legal directories. Ben is immigration counsel to a large number of multi-national companies as well as private client entrepreneurs and investors. He works with the International Bar Association, Immigration Law Practitioner’s Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, British American Business and many other groups in disseminating information and facilitating debate in respect of global immigration policy and mobility issues. Ben has spoken on future UK immigration policy and Brexit to many conferences, forums and stakeholder meetings.

Were you and the team at Magrath anticipating a “remain” or a “leave” result in the Brexit referendum? What did you do to prepare for either outcome? 

At the outset of the referendum campaign we believed that there would be a healthy and noisy national debate but that “remain” would ultimately be the clear winner. Over the course of the campaign it became clear that public opinion was shifting. Undoubtedly UK immigration policy and the significant increase in net migration following the A8 EU expansion in 2004 and the immediate access to the resident labour market of nationals from those countries (with consequent demands on public services) were driving factors of the vote to leave. This was particularly the case outside London. We prepared advisory materials based on both outcomes before referendum day itself. We activated the “leave” materials as soon as the result was known. Our clients are extremely interested and affected by this issue as they employ large populations of EU citizens in their workforce. We organised two client seminars for the week following the result (interest was so high that we had to offer repeat seminars). Our corporate clients were particularly concerned to communicate clearly with their EU national employees, manage fears and expectations and advise on future settlement options.

What impression has the UK’s decision to leave the EU made on your overseas clients in relation to their commercial interests in the country?

Most clients acknowledge that the UK, and London in particular, will remain a major business hub and global market regardless of Brexit. However they are concerned that it will be difficult to attract and retain the talent that they require in order to prosper and compete internationally. Inevitably UK immigration will become more complex and expensive over time. The government remains committed to a major reduction in net migration despite low unemployment and the clear need to attract talent into many sectors.

What is the single most important issue relating to immigration law now that the UK is set to leave the EU?

The position in respect of the safeguarding of EU citizen rights has been addressed to some extend by the June 2017 proposals to grant settled status to EU nationals in the UK prior to Brexit date however a number of questions (including that of reciprocity for UK nationals in the EU) remain outstanding. The most important issue is the design of a new post-Brexit immigration regime for the UK. How can the new schemes meet the demands of business and the economy generally? Is a reduction in net migration realistic or desirable in this context? Is it sensible or lawful to run one set of schemes for EU nationals and other arrangements for the rest of the world?

What steps has the firm taken to ensure that it remains at the forefront of immigration law for clients during the Brexit process?

We keep abreast of these issues by engaging with the Home Office and stakeholders.  We organise and attend conferences and seminars and communicate extensively with our clients on Brexit-related issues. Brexit will set the agenda of our UK inbound business for years to come. We will work with our clients on an extensive response to the MAC consultation on new domestic immigration arrangements as soon as it is published.

To what extent can the UK learn from European nations outside the EU that have managed to remain attractive to businesses and investors?

The key is to make UK an attractive place for international businesses to operate. The City will play a major role in this. The government must also change the prevailing narrative around immigration by making a strong case for inward investment and the attraction of talent. Brexit provides an opportunity to establish strong trade and bilateral arrangements with many countries.

Are there any historical comparisons to the UK’s decision to leave the EU which have had a similar impact on immigration law?

Probably when we joined the EU in the first place! The country will have gone full circle over a 40-year-period and will be required to reinvent its pre-EU immigration framework.

Is the end of freedom of movement a guaranteed aspect of the outcome of negotiations between the UK and the EU27?

It seems inevitable that freedom of movement will end given everything that has been said by the government on this issue. As immigration control was one of the primary drivers of the vote to leave it would be difficult to argue that the result of the referendum was being respected if freedom of movement continues to apply. All of the materials published so far suggest that the UK will leave the single market as the price of withdrawal from freedom of movement and judicial oversight from Europe. The government is, however, much weaker following the 2017 election and may be forced to compromise on some of its “hard Brexit” positions depending on the machinations of Parliament.

To what extent is immigration now a more complex issue for clients than it was before the EU referendum?

Business does not like uncertainty and the Brexit vote has created a great deal. Prior to the referendum the UK immigration and legal right to work regimes were simple for EU nationals and more complex but settled for the rest of the world. Immigration laws and processes will inevitably become more complex as schemes are developed for the control of EU migration after March 2019. It will be interesting to see how these schemes interact with existing arrangements under PBS for non-EU migration. Furthermore, how the government will square reducing net migration with maintaining a strong, buoyant economy supported by well-resourced public services will be a major challenge.

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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