Within this column we have previously outlined the agreement reached towards the end of last year to guarantee the rights of non-UK nationals to remain in the UK post Brexit.
As we draw closer to the 29th March 2019 exit date, issues begin to arise about what will happen from this day onwards. Fuel was added to the flames this week by the Prime Minister Theresa May who, speaking on a trade visit to China indicated that anyone not already settled in the UK by 29th March 2019 would not be treated the same as someone already here.
To recap: -
If you are already resident in the UK on the 29th March 2019, you will be permitted to remain. If you have already been here for 5 years or more, you can apply for “settled status” that enshrines your right to stay. If you have come to the UK less than 5 years before then you will be permitted to stay until you reach the 5 years mark at which point you will be eligible for settled status.
Having settled status will entitle you to bring close family members into the country to live with you. This includes existing spouses, unmarried partners, children, dependent parents and grandparents, as well as children born or adopted outside of the UK after 29 March 2019.
Settled status will enable access to government services and benefits like the NHS, welfare state, schools, etc
The issue that has arisen this week is that If you arrive after the 29th March 2019 and do not fit into any of the above categories, what is the position?
Prime Minister May has indicated that the UK will not treat such persons the same way as those already here. What this may mean has not been specifically outlined, but may include some or all of the following:-
- Denial of settled status; or alternatively a longer period of wait before this is granted;
- Restrictions on access to services such as the NHS, Schools, Counsel housing and the like;
- Denial or reduction of government benefits
- Denial or restriction of the right to work here.
The Prime Ministers announcement is in stark contrast to the position maintained by the rest of the EU. There the stance is that following Brexit there should be a period of transition during which the status quo should be maintained. Eu leaders are therefore calling for a period until at least December 2020 for EU nationals to come to the UK and be treated the same as those already here. Both parties ie UK government and the EU leaders say that this is an area for negotiation. Clearly there will be some movement on this issue, but it is a particularly worrying sign that UK politicians are hardening their stance against the rest of the EU. The Prime Ministers position was not helped either with the recent intervention of American President Donald Trump who when asked if he would have agreed the same deal stated that he would not have done so, clearly indicating that he believes the UK Government should be doing more to protect the interests of those already here.
Over the coming weeks and months we are likely to receive more details about the UK relationship with the rest of the EU. Although the rights of those already here is agreed, anyone contemplating a move to the UK should bear in mind that after the 29th March 2019 they are likely to be prejudiced compared to UK citizens and EU nationals who have or will attain settled status. The message seems to be that if you are contemplating emigrating to the UK from within the EU, then time is running out.