The government has published a policy paper on its actions to protect citizens' rights in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal in March next year, which outlines its proposals for EU citizens currently living and working in the UK, as well as UK citizens based in the EU
The paper states: ‘To remove any ambiguity about their future, the UK government wants to reassure EU citizens and their family members living in the UK that they are welcome to stay in the UK in the unlikely event of a “no deal” scenario.’
The government says EU citizens and their family members resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay and carry on with their lives broadly as now. They will continue to be able to work, study, and access benefits and services in the UK on the same basis after Brexit as they do now.
To achieve this, the UK will continue to run the EU Settlement Scheme for those resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 in a ‘no deal’ scenario. The basis for qualifying for status under the scheme will remain the same as proposed in a ‘deal’ scenario and will be focused on residence in the UK. This means that any EU citizen living in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be eligible to apply.
The Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) says the application system will continue to be streamlined and user-friendly, and will continue to draw on existing government data, to minimise the burden on applicants to provide evidence of their residence. Throughout, the Home Office will be looking to grant status, not for reasons to refuse.
Those here by 29 March 2019 will have until 31 December 2020 to apply for status under the scheme. Until this time, EU citizens will continue to be able to rely on their passport or national identity card if they are asked to evidence their right to reside in the UK when, for example, applying for a job, as they do currently.
The UK will continue to honour the right of those who obtain settled status under the scheme to be able to leave the country for up to five consecutive years without losing their right to return. However, in a ‘no deal’ scenario there would be some changes. As there would be no agreed implementation period, this guarantee would only apply to EU citizens who are resident in the UK by 29 March 2019, who would have until 31 December 2020 to apply for a status under the EU Settlement Scheme, but with no six-month ‘grace period’ beyond this. The new UK immigration system would be implemented from 1 January 2021 as planned.
EU citizens with settled status would be able to be joined in the UK, by 29 March 2022, by existing close family members, such as children, spouses and partners, parents and grandparents living overseas at exit, where the relationship existed by 29 March 2019 (or where a child was born overseas after this date) and continued to exist when the family member applied. After 29 March 2022, such family members will be able to join EU citizens here by applying through the applicable UK immigration rules.
EU citizens with settled status will be able to be joined by future spouses and partners (where the relationship was established after exit) and other dependent relatives until 31 December 2020, after which point the UK immigration rules would apply to such family reunion. Together this would bring the rights of EU citizens in line with the rights of UK nationals from 30 March 2022.
EU identity cards would remain valid for travel to the UK initially in the event of a ‘no deal’, but this may change following the introduction of the new UK immigration system from 1 January 2021.
‘Frontier workers’ who travel to and from the UK because they are employed or self-employed here, are likely to spend enough time in the UK to qualify for status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Otherwise, they will be able to obtain a separate UK immigration status which will allow them to continue frontier working into the UK after exit.
In a ‘no deal’ scenario, EU citizens and their family members lawfully residing in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to continue to access in country benefits and services on broadly the same terms as now. EU citizens will also continue to have their professional qualifications recognised in the UK post-exit, where they have applied for or received a recognition decision by 29 March 2019.
The policy paper also outlines proposals for protecting the healthcare and other benefits for UK nationals living in the EU, saying the UK government is calling on the EU and member states to uphold their commitments to citizens and to protect the rights of UK nationals in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.
The paper states: ‘The UK cannot act unilaterally to protect the rights of UK nationals in the EU, but will take necessary steps where possible to support UK nationals. The UK will continue to provide updates to UK nationals in the EU on gov.uk and through its network of embassies, consulates and High Commissions.’
Report by Pat Sweet