What will Brexit mean for EU citizens living and working in the UK?

What will Brexit mean for EU citizens living and working in the UK?

As the Brexit March deadline looms, there is a distinct possibility that the UK might leave the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019.

The UK government have given assurance to EU nationals living and working in the UK in such a scenario, however, with many details still up in the air, the position remains uncertain.

What will happen to EU citizens if the UK leaves the EU with a deal? Assuming the present withdrawal agreement comes into force.

EU citizens and their family members will retain freedom of movement rights until 31 December 2020. If EU citizens “reside” in the UK before that date they can apply for “settled” or “pre-settled” status any time up to 30 June 2021. The scheme also applies (with some minor differences) to citizens of EEA, EFTA and Switzerland (who are not already EU citizens).

  • “Settled” status is a right of permanent residence that is subject to various exceptions. The applicant must show that they have been a permanent resident in the UK for 5 continuous years. Breaks of under 6 months in any 12 month period are ignored – this can be extended to 12 months in some cases;
  • “Pre-settled” status is a right to remain in the UK for 5 years. Once the 5 years are completed the applicant is able to apply for settled status.

What does this mean for EU employees working in the UK?

EU employees (and family members) who have been in the UK for 5 or more years by 31 December 2020 without significant breaks should be entitled to apply for “Settled” status. Those who do not have the 5 years residence can only apply for “Pre-settled” status, they then should be able to convert that into “Settled” status once they have accrued the 5 years.

From 1 January 2021, freedom of movement ceases and anyone arriving in the UK after that date will be subject to a new, yet to be determined immigration system.

Irish citizens will continue to enjoy the right to move and work under the Common Travel Area Arrangements that were in place pre-EU.

What will happen to EU citizens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal?

In the case of a no deal Brexit, the position of EU citizens is unclear. A policy paper issued by the Government suggests that it would continue to run the settlement scheme but only for EU citizens and family members that are resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 – applicants will then have until 31 December 2020 to apply for settled status.

EU citizens arriving after 29 March, will be entitled to stay for 3 months. Thereafter, they will need to apply for a European Temporary Leave to Remain (ETLR) status which will be valid for up to 36 months. This cannot be extended and will not confer any additional rights so, once expired, the individual will have to apply for a visa/permit under the new (yet to be determined) scheme.

Again, Irish citizens, will not be required to apply for an ETLR because they will continue to have the right to enter and live in the UK under the Common Travel Area Arrangements.

For workers going the other way (to EU countries other than Ireland), individual countries are putting in place similar arrangements for a “no-deal” scenario – there is no EU wide system.

What does this mean for EU employees working in the UK?

Broadly, employers will still be able to employ an EU citizen post 29 March 2019 particularly if they are already resident in the UK.  The settlement scheme is open for some applications now and will be fully open by 30 March. The Government have decided to waive the fee when it fully opens.

We recommend that employers assess their workforce and provide information and guidance to relevant staff to ensure that the correct status is in place within the deadlines.

Employers also need to check recruitment decisions being made now where the applicant is not currently a UK resident because this may become more difficult in a “no-deal” scenario.

If you would like any further information on this topic please contact James Simpson on 07971 288261 or jfs@blasermills.co.uk