Until the UK withdraws from the EU, EU law will continue to apply in the UK and so the rights of EU citizens and their family members to live and work in the UK remain unchanged. However, after Brexit, free movement rights will come to an end. On 26 June 2017 Theresa May briefed MPs on the details of the Government’s proposals to safeguard the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit. The “offer” is conditional on a reciprocal arrangement with the EU to safeguard the rights of UK nationals living in the EU.
In summary, the key points of the proposals:
- All EU nationals (as well of nationals of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) lawfully and continuously resident in the UK for at least five years by the specified date will be able to apply for “settled status” which will effectively give them indefinite leave to stay, the right to bring over spouses and children and broadly the same access to all health and other benefits which they currently enjoy.
- Settled status will not be granted automatically. Even those who currently enjoy residency rights will have to re-apply under the new regime (although a more streamlined approach than the current application process is promised).
- Those who arrive in the UK after the specified date will have two years to “regularise their status” but with no guarantees that they will be granted permanent residence.
- EU nationals currently in the UK who have been resident for less than five years at the specified date will be entitled to apply for continued residence on a temporary basis and then, once resident for five years, can apply for settled status.
- The cut-off date for eligibility is undecided but will be between 29 March 2017 and 29 March 2019.
- A period of “blanket residence permission” (likely to be for up to two years after the point of exit) will apply from the point of exit to all EU citizens lawfully resident in the UK to give officials time to process applications to stay in the UK.
- The new arrangements will be enshrined in UK law and enforceable through the UK judicial system, up to and including the Supreme Court. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will not have jurisdiction in the UK.
At present these are of course proposals only. Much will depend on the rest of the EU’s response in negotiations. Reacting to the proposals on Twitter, Michel Barnier, who is leading the Brexit negotiations for the EU, said his goal was the same level of protection that citizens currently have under EU law and that more clarity and guarantees were needed than those currently provided by the UK. Meanwhile, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker focused on the issue of which court would oversee any new system, saying it was “inconceivable” to him that the European Court of Justice would not be involved.