This vote was never going to be legally binding. There is no reason for this to have a practical impact. The Government is not actually under any obligation to do anything in response to this.
However, if the Government decides to act on this vote then there will be several years of negotiations with the EU. Nobody knows what form the UK’s new relationship with the EU will eventually take – we obviously cannot declare ourselves entirely isolated and cut off all connections, treaties, deals and transport links, but the voting public are going to require at least some kind of tangible results. Otherwise they’ll ask themselves what the point was.
Obviously immigration is going to be on everyone’s minds during the renegotiations.
Some members of the public and some MPs (but no immigration lawyers) have suggested that now the 35k settlement threshold will eventually prove unnecessary, and maybe the Home Office will allow more non-EU skilled workers to remain in the UK. That is the worst kind of naïve nonsense – the 35k settlement threshold is already unnecessary, the Government’s anti-migration stance is well-documented, and the Home Office wants the power to discriminate further against EU migrants. We will be watching carefully to see what fresh rules the Home Office decides to inflict on EU citizens living in the UK, once they have greater powers.
Meanwhile our focus is still the settlement threshold for Tier 2 skilled workers. If the threshold is expanded to include EU citizens then we will step up and do what we can, but until that happens we still have a job to do.
In the wake of such an internationally unpopular decision, we’re going to be talking intently with the Scottish Government. In the years of uncertainty that will follow, there are going to be opportunities to influence any new agreements, treaties and policies.