While the UK and the EU wrangle their way through Brexit, do you sit back and wait, stifle a yawn or get upset and feel unsettled? Here’s a review of the latest goings on that affect EU nationals here in the UK.
Earlier this month, a UK Home Office document was leaked, and published in The Guardian newspaper; it revealed the UK Brexit plan to deter EU immigrants.
The Guardian review of the document breaks down the 82-page original into 8 key points. The global summary of it all is that the exit from the EU will be in three phases and that future immigration controls on EU citizens will be such that British workers’ rights will be prioritised. Some of the more contentious points that are that there may be income requirements for some EU nationals requesting residency in the UK; entry into the UK by EU family members may be restricted; permits to work will only last for two years, possibly longer for people with “real expertise”.
What does this mean for EU citizens already in the UK?
According to the UK government’s EU Citizens Rights Campaign site, EU citizens are “incredibly valued” and have made an “enormous contribution to the UK and we want them to continue to be able to do so. We want to provide certainty for the over 3 million EU citizens in the UK as soon as possible.”
The UK government’s current offer for EU citizens already in the UK is this:
• People who have been continuously living here for 5 years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’. That means these citizens will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and apply for British citizenship.
• People who arrived before the cut-off date, but won’t have been here for 5 years when we leave the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the 5-year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
• People who arrive after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under the future immigration arrangements for EU citizens.
• Family dependents who are living with or join EU citizens before the UK’s exit will also be able to apply for settled status after 5 years in the UK. In these cases, the cut-off date won’t apply.
The cut-off date is still to be decided, but the UK government says it won’t be earlier than 29 March 2017 (the date Article 50 was triggered).
Who will oversee EU nationals rights?
A major problem (another one) in all this is which court exercises rights over EU nationals. Is it the UK’s courts or the European Court of Justice? No one seems to able to agree.
However, four days ago, Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a speech in Florence, Italy. In it, among many other points, she tried to allay the fears of EU citizens in the UK, including thousands of Italians, and offered a solution to the justice conundrum, saying:
“I want to repeat to the 600,000 Italians in the UK – and indeed to all EU citizens who have made their lives in our country – that we want you to stay; we value you; and we thank you for your contribution to our national life – and it has been, and remains, one of my first goals in this negotiation to ensure that you can carry on living your lives as before.
“I am clear that the guarantee I am giving on your rights is real. And I doubt anyone with real experience of the UK would doubt the independence of our courts or of the rigour with which they will uphold people’s legal rights.
“But I know there are concerns that over time the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens overseas will diverge. I want to incorporate our agreement fully into UK law and make sure the UK courts can refer directly to it.
“Where there is uncertainty around underlying EU law, I want the UK courts to be able to take into account the judgments of the European Court of Justice with a view to ensuring consistent interpretation. On this basis, I hope our teams can reach firm agreement quickly.”
The Financial Times Brussels correspondent writes about May’s comments, “This is one of the most important concessions made in the speech. The EU side demanded that the rights of the 3m EU nationals in Britain remain overseen by the European Court of Justice, even after Brexit. The UK rejected this outright. But here May, with some legal creativity, is opening the way to a compromise. She is firstly allowing the citizen rights agreed in the treaty have direct effect in the UK, allowing citizens to enforce the provisions in British courts. Even more significant, May accepts that future ECJ case law will also be taken into account by judges. These two steps combined may allow the EU to drop demands for direct ECJ jurisdiction. Two big concerns are addressed: the rights are protected by a rock-solid legal guarantee, and the interpretation of EU law by the ECJ will remain.”
Are you caught up in all this as an EU citizen in the UK? Does it cause your significant stress or do you have a laissez-faire attitude, willing to ignore all the political ping-pong until it’s nearing some kind of agreement? Please do comment below.
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