Parliamentary committee urges government action to safeguard rights of EU citizens in the UK

6 Mar 17

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? A report by a cross-party parliamentary Committee on Exiting the EU said that the government should unilaterally guarantee the right to permanent residence for the approximately 3.2 million EU nationals already in the U.K., as well as setting a cutoff date as soon as possible for new EU arrivals so it will be clear who will be eligible to accrue a right to permanent residence after five years. The committee also urged the government to publish its timetable for the next Immigration Bill as soon as possible.

What does the change mean? The report was unanimous and adds further political weight to the growing chorus of support for EU citizens to be guaranteed their rights to reside before official Brexit negotiations begin.

Background: The report was the result of an inquiry into the government’s negotiating objectives regarding EU citizens in the U.K. and U.K. citizens in the EU ahead of Article 50 being triggered (currently set for March 31. Among the report’s key findings:

  • EU nationals in the U.K. and U.K. nationals in the EU do not want to be used as bargaining chips in the negotiations, and leaving them to live under a cloud of uncertainty is unacceptable. The U.K. should now make a unilateral decision to safeguard the rights of EU nationals in the U.K.
  • The government should as soon as possible announce a cutoff date for EU nationals coming to the U.K., after which they will no longer be able to accrue rights to residency.
  • The Home Office is not processing residency applications by EU nationals fast enough (six months is standard) and is currently rejecting approximately one-third of applications.
  • The current permanent residency process for EU nationals is overly burdensome and should be streamlined.
  • A sudden reduction in EU workers in the U.K. would disrupt business in a number of sectors, and the government should indicate its willingness in negotiations to consider preferential treatment for EU nationals.
  • A post-Brexit immigration system may range from retaining some free movement for EU nationals to applying the same scheme to EU and non-EU nationals. Introducing restrictions on EU/EEA nationals will add complexity, and a balance must be struck as to who bears the administrative burden – the employer, the applicant or the Home Office.
  • Proposals for geographic work visas in London and the devolved jurisdictions should be considered, and the government should respond as fully and early as possible.
  • The government should seek to ensure that U.K. citizens currently in the EU will have continuing access to healthcare and reciprocal pension benefits post-Brexit.

BAL Analysis: The committee urges immediate action on the status of EU nationals in the U.K. and seeks transparency as to the government’s intentions on future migration policy, a recommendation that, if adopted, would be enormously helpful. Residency applications are currently being rejected for reasons such as failure to hold comprehensive sickness insurance during periods of study or “self sufficiency” between jobs – requirements that European applicants were not made aware of previously – and therefore any drive to secure their rights based on the fact of residence rather than hard line legal interpretations or documentary rules is welcome. Nevertheless, the government has withstood previous requests for guarantees and with just weeks before negotiations begin, this latest report offers no certainty that guarantees will be given.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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