On 26 June 2017, over a year after the Brexit referendum result, the government finally published its proposals to “safeguard the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU”. Colin Yeo, Eurochildren legal expert, takes a look at the details of the proposals.
It is important to remember that at the moment these are just proposals by the UK. They have been tabled as part of a negotiation process. The UK proposals may change, either becoming more generous as part of the negotiation or being withdrawn partially or in full if the negotiations fail.
The EU has already made public its own comprehensive proposals, which are essentially to preserve EU law rights for citizens of the EU in the UK and of the UK in the EU alike, with enforcement of rights through the Court of Justice of the European Union. Self evidently, that EU proposal would guarantee and protect all existing rights of all citizens.
The UK proposal falls very considerably short of that, proposing in essence to enable EU nationals in the UK to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under UK law. This would include EU citizens who have already applied for and obtained permanent residence documents, which would be considered worthless by the Home Office after Brexit. Failure to do so would render an EU citizen unlawful and they would be committing a criminal offence by remaining in the UK after the agreed transition period. This status would be lost after two years’ absence from the UK, with re-entry only under whatever new immigration rules the UK introduces. Family reunion rights under EU law would also be lost and EU nationals would have to rely on the same appalling family reunion rules as British citizens, recently adjudged the most restrictive in the developed world. However, certain rights currently enshrined in EU law would be preserved, including benefits, healthcare and pensions entitlements.
It is hard to see in what way the UK proposals are “generous” as had originally been suggested. For example, on family members the offer is merely to comply with EU law until Brexit, which the UK is already obliged to do. Kicking out family members who had lawfully arrived in the meantime should be utterly unthinkable anyway. The UK proposals rather look like the bare minimum which decency demands; if one considers what arrangements the UK would be likely to put in place in the event of “no deal” when Brexit occurs, they would surely look a lot like these. The UK was never going to forceably remove 3 million EU citizens resident in the UK.
It is also hard to see anything positive that the UK has achieved by waiting until now to publish these minimalist proposals. Had this plan been proposed shortly after the referendum result, it would have at least reassured EU nationals living in the UK and it would also made made clear there was no need to apply for permanent residence documents. At this point in time, though, it makes clear the loss of almost all EU law residence rights and puts two fingers up at those EU nationals who have applied for permanent residence in the meantime, concerned as they were to do whatever they could to make their position feel more secure.
As an aside, although according the UK’s current proposals permanent residence documents will be worthless when Brexit occurs, any EU nationals in the UK who want to apply for British citizenship through the naturalisation process are obliged to get a permanent residence document first in the meantime.
For more, read the full post in www.freemovement.org.uk