BREXIT & EU nationals
With the draft Withdrawal Agreement due to be agreed by the EU and the UK in October 2018, the future of EU citizens living in the UK is still in limbo.
The Withdrawal Agreement provides, amongst other things, for an “implementation period”, which will enter into force on 30 March 2019 and last until 31 December 2020. The purpose of the period is to provide for a smooth transfer from EU arrangements to whatever new arrangements may be agreed under the ‘deal’ / the ‘Future Framework’.
The draft Withdrawal Agreement has not yet been ratified. Ratification will require the consent of the UK Government, the European Parliament and the EU 27 Member States and must take place before 30 March 2019.
EU citizens currently living in the UK still have an entitlement to remain in the UK for an indefinite period providing they are exercising treaty rights of free movement as a worker (including job seekers), a self-employed person, a self-sufficient person or a student.
EU settlement scheme
The draft Withdrawal Agreement, amongst other things, guarantees the protection of citizens’ rights, by preserving the freedom of movement and the right to permanent residence, for EU citizens until the end of the transition period. This protection will be provided via the proposed
EU settlement scheme which will ensure that:
- EU citizens and their family members who, by 31 December 2020, have been continuously resident in the UK for five years will be eligible for “Settled Status”, which will enable them to stay in the UK indefinitely.
- EU citizens, and their family members, who arrive by 31 December 2020 but will not yet have been continuously resident here for five years, will be eligible for “Pre-Settled Status”, enabling them to stay until they have reached the end of the five-year qualifying period. At that point they will become eligible to convert to Settled Status.
- EU citizens and their family members with Settled Status or Pre-Settled status will have the same access as they currently do to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK.
- Close family members (a spouse, civil partner, durable partner, dependent child or grandchild, and dependent parent or grandparent) living overseas will still be able to join as an EU citizen resident here after the end of the implementation period, where the relationship existed on 31 December 2020 and continues to exist when the person wishes to come to the UK.
The scheme should be rolled out from late 2018 and be fully operational by 30 March 2019.
Chequers: deal or no deal?
In July 2018, the UK Government published a White Paper on its proposals for the future relationship between the UK and the EU laying out the foundation of the Future Framework. This White Paper is also referred to as “Chequers”.
At the point of writing it is still unclear whether these proposals will be acceptable to the EU and / or if it will even be ratified by the UK Parliament.
If the draft Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified or there is no agreement on a Future Framework, there is the possibility that England will exit the EU on 30 March 2019 with no deal.
What are the possible repercussions on EU nationals?
In the case of ‘no deal’ scenario, EU and UK nationals would be become nationals of ‘third-country’. As such they would be subject to national domestic legislation. Whether visas would be required or visa free travel would be allowed is yet to be confirmed. Unless the UK Government decide otherwise unilaterally, the status of EU nationals in the UK would have to be regularised under the UK immigration rules.
Most will argue that this scenario would have catastrophic impact not only on our economy but also on our diplomatic relationship with our EU neighbours.
To avoid this the Government’s option would include:
- Unilaterally extending the ‘freedom of movement’ within UK Immigration Law to buy time;
- Unilaterally implementing the EU settlement scheme; or
- Requesting for an extension of the 2 year notice thereby maintaining the EU citizen’s rights until a deal is reached.
What is next?
The European Council is due to announce the final Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the Future Framework in October. The Agreement must be ratified by both parties if we are to avoid a ‘no deal’ scenario. Failing to agree on the Future Framework would not have such definitive and immediate consequences, as there is always the possibility of extending the negotiation period under article 50.
For further information on any of the above please do not hesitate to contact me.