- Rights for EU citizens to leave the UK for long periods will be restricted after Brexit.
- The lack of government progress on the details of their plans for EU citizens has been “shameful,” campaigners tell Business Insider.
- Two classes of EU citizens are set to be created in the UK.
- Right to bring over family members will be restricted.
- EU citizens will lose the protection of the European Court of Justice.
LONDON – Theresa May last year released what she described as a “generous offer” to EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit. The plans, which form part of Brexit negotiations with the European Union, were sold as offering Europeans living here rights which are “almost equivalent to British citizens”.
But the plans as they stand involve the loss of a number of existing rights for EU citizens. Twelve months since May’s “generous offer,” EU citizens still know little more about their future.
“It’s quite interesting to see how little has changed in 12 months even if we have more certainty now. Shameful really,” Nicolas Hatton, co-founder of the EU citizens’ campaign group the3million, told BI.
Here are the rights that European citizens living in the UK are set to lose after Brexit.
The right to leave
Under current freedom of movement rules, EU citizens are able to move between any member state at will. The UK government has pledged to end this right once Britain leaves, replacing it with the right to earn “settled status” in the UK. Under that system, EU citizens who have been living in the UK for five years can apply for indefinite leave to remain. However, settled status is not the same as citizenship.
While UK citizens are free to work abroad, and even for long periods and still retain their British citizenship, EU citizens with “settled status” are not. Under the current proposed rules, anyone with settled status in the UK risks losing this status if they leave the country for five years or more. The government say exceptions may be made if they “have strong ties here,” but the details of that are yet to be spelt out.
Two classes of EU citizens
European citizens arriving before the proposed Brexit transition period ends on December 31, 2020, will be allowed to apply for “settled status” under terms negotiated between the UK and EU this year.
There is still no information on how EU citizens arriving after the cut-off date will be able to migrate to the UK, but it is likely to take the form of a visa scheme. The question of whether EU citizens will receive preferential treatment to non-EU migrants from the rest of the world is still subject to discussions in Brexit talks and within May’s Cabinet.
The right to bring over family members
EU citizens living in the UK currently have the right to bring over family members to live here. That right will be either removed or significantly watered down after Brexit.
EU negotiators this year secured concessions from the UK government this year which will partially extend current family reunification rights after the transition, namely the right to bring to the UK existing spouses, parents and children – but it won’t apply to unmarried partners.
The3million’s Nicolas Hatton said that means younger EU citizens will be subject to unfair discrimination. “Once again, this is discriminatory to younger Europeans who will have to go through the income threshold and other hoops to bring the person they would have fallen in love with outside of the UK,” he told BI.
Loss of protection from European courts
EU citizens living in the UK currently have their rights protected by the European Court of Justice. However, Theresa May is committed to leaving the jurisdiction of the court after Brexit. This is likely to be a major point of disagreement in Brexit negotiations.
Claude Moraes MEP, the chair of the European parliament civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, said last year that the proposal to leave the court “threatens the rights of both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in other EU countries” and would “create greater uncertainty for both UK and EU citizens and take up limited negotiating time.”
A no-deal Brexit could make EU citizens illegal immigrants
A no-deal Brexit remains by far the greatest threat to the status of EU citizens in the UK. Should Theresa May fail to secure a deal with her Brussels counterparts by March next year, the majority of EU citizens would likely be residing in the UK without formal legal status. Hatton said they would “technically be illegal immigrants,” adding that campaigners have “no idea how the UK is planning for this eventuality.”
Meetings between the3million and European politicians this week confirmed that the EU is planning for such an outcome, but details are yet to be published.
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