While the Brexit chaos continues, with the Prime Minister expected to lose the vote on her deal next Tuesday, we thought it was a good time to ask the question: What does it mean for my citizens’ rights?
On Thursday, the Government published its final technical note on EU citizens; we now finally have more clarity about what happens to us in case of a no-deal Brexit.
In summary, our rights will be ‘watered down’ in case of no-deal Brexit, but the guarantee we will be able to stay will be honoured, as the Home Office would roll out its settlement scheme regardless.
But — and there is a but — there are significant differences between the three scenarios:
1. The UK remains in the EU, or joins the EEA:
All current rights are protected by European treaties, as they currently are.
2. The UK leaves the EU, under the Article 50 procedure and the rules of the Withdrawal Agreement:
We have commented about the agreement on many occasions.
We like the fact the agreement would be an international treaty, preventing the Home Office from ‘misbehaving’ in the future, but it is not a like-for-like translation of our existing rights, and accessing these rights will be conditional to applying successfully with the Home Office, for a fee, a task which is somehow more complicated than it seems.
3. The UK leaves the EU without a deal:
The Government has issued a paper which finally gives us the details of what would happen if the UK leaves without a deal with the EU. This is a direct quote from the Government’s email we received:
“The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has today set out provisions for EU citizens and their family members in the UK in the event of a no deal outcome. You can read the policy document here.
The information set out today:
1/ Confirms that in the event of a no deal, the EU Settlement Scheme will continue to be implemented, enabling EU citizens and their family members living in the UK by 29 March 2019 to secure their status and continue to be able to work, study, and access benefits and services in the UK on the same basis after we exit the EU as they do now. The scheme will be fully open by 30 March 2019 as planned.
2/ Confirms that the Home Office will continue to look to grant status rather than refuse and, as per the UK commitment to be more generous in certain respects than the draft Withdrawal Agreement, a person will not be refused status under the EU Settlement Scheme because, for example, they are not economically active or they do not hold comprehensive sickness insurance. A person will continue to be eligible for settled status under the scheme where they have been continuously resident in the UK for five years, and for pre-settled status (five years’ leave to remain) if they do not yet qualify for settled status.
3/ Confirms that the EU Settlement Scheme Grant Funding will continue as planned, providing organisations with funding to help ensure that EU citizens who need extra support to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme are able to access it.
4/ Confirms that we will continue to take a proportionate approach to those who miss the deadline for a good reason and allow them a reasonable further period in which to apply.
5/ There would be some changes to the EU Settlement Scheme if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, which are set out in the policy document. In particular, as there will be no agreed implementation period, the application deadline will be brought forward to 31 December 2020.”
Like many others, I welcome the publication of the paper, so we now know, but the3million have concerns:
1/ According to points 7 and 8, our citizens’ rights will only be guaranteed for those residents who are living in the UK on 29 March 2019. What will happen to those who are currently studying or working on assignment abroad?
2/ The document lays out an exemption to the rule above for cross-border and frontier workers, who travel regularly in and out of the UK. But not for any other group.
3/ On social security coordination, the Government is aiming low. Rather than seeking an agreement with the EU on future aggregation of, for example, state pension years, they only seek to secure past contributions.
4/ Family reunion rights will now be time-limited. Family will only be able to join EU citizens in the UK within the three years of the Brexit date.
5/ Very worrying: the Government’s plan is creating the situation Yvette Cooper MP pointed out during the Home Affairs Committee on 30 October. Two indistinguishable sets of EU citizens with separate rights to work and live will be created. Leading to unavoidable discrimination.
6/ Or as Stuart McDonald MP put it correctly in the same Home Affairs Committee on 30 October: Employers and landlords will not touch EU citizens with a barge pole in fear of heavy fines and punishment resulting from the Government’s Hostile Environment policies.
7/ This situation arising from a No-Deal Brexit that is unacceptable and it is high time now for both the Prime Minister and the European Commission to get together and ring-fence, rescue, the citizen’s rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement, no matter what Brexit we will get.
Liked this story? Here’s what you can do next:
(This piece was originally published on the3million newsletter.)