LONDON — The post-Brexit legal status of Brits living in Europe, as well as European Union citizens living in Britain, could become a huge headache for the government, according to multiple reports.
The Observer on Sunday reported on a leaked EU report that said that EU citizens living in the UK could fall into a legal no man’s land after Brexit.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said all those who are given leave to remain will need “some sort of documentation.”
However, there is no central UK migration register, meaning many of the 3.3 million EU citizens living in Britain could find themselves in a legal grey area. Rudd promised a “phased approach.”
The Migration Observatory at Oxford said in a report last year: “The scale of the administrative exercise that would be required to register all EU citizens already living in the UK for permanent residence is, therefore, considerable. If all EEA+ citizens were to apply in the same year, this would be equivalent to approximately 140 years’ worth of permanent residence applications.”
Meanwhile, the Financial Times said on Monday the government’s commitment to protect the rights of Brits living in the EU post-Brexit could become stuck in “a horrible legal morass,” quoting an unnamed senior Brexit negotiator. The problem lies in the sheer complexity of the problem, with the government forced to agree policy with the EU on everything from pensions to the rights of children born to expats living in the EU.
Both sides also face tense negotiations. While the EU and Britain have signalled their commitments to protect the rights of expats, both want a reciprocal deal that guarantees equal rights. The precise wording of any deal is therefore likely to be closely watched and fought offer.
An EU report leaked to the Guardian last week said that Brits living in one of the EU’s 27 member states could face a backlash from EU legislators if Britain fails to guarantee writes for EU citizens in the UK. The report said Britain’s treatment of EU expats “may colour member states’ approach to this matter.”
There are around 1.2 million Brits living in the EU and the Exiting the EU Select Committee said in a report last month that “that an unintended consequence of Brexit could be a surge in immigration to the UK of former British migrants, both working and retired.”
Campaigners said the committee that hundreds of thousands of retired Brits in places like France and Spain could be forced to return to the UK if the government can’t secure a deal to protect their rights post-Brexit.
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