Brexit negotiations update: agreement on EU citizens’ rights
In a key development in the Brexit negotiations, the Government has now reached an agreement on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, giving them some comfort for the future.
The Home Secretary’s recent open letter to EU citizens living in the UK published this week (19 December) confirms the protection of their residency.
What does the Agreement say?
- Those living in the UK continuously for 5 years can apply for ‘settled status’ ensuring their pension, healthcare and other benefits will remain unchanged.
- Those who have arrived in the UK before March 2019 along with their family members can apply to stay in the UK until they have reached 5 years after which they can apply for settled status.
- Close family members of EU citizens can join them after the UK leave the EU and any children born after the UK’s exit will be protected in line with their parents.
- A new digital system will be launched during the second half of 2018 for EU citizens to apply for their status documents that will cost no more than £72.50 and will be free for those who already hold a permanent residence document under EU law.
While EU citizens who have been exercising free movement prior to the UK’s exit from the EU can continue to live and work here post-Brexit, the UK system of registration and requirement for status documents will continue to limit the numbers coming to work in the UK. In addition, we must not neglect that there is still no clarity on the registration criteria itself and there will still be time restraints in place, so for the majority post-Brexit uncertainty remains.
Businesses must recognise that they will still be forced to recruit British workers in the future before considering professionals based overseas. It is likely that skills shortages in roles that are currently filled by EU workers will remain and become even more restrictive. You only need to look at the reduction in recent net migration figures, which fell by a third in the year after the Brexit vote, to see that there is much more for the Government to do to prevent Europeans leaving and adversely affecting UK business today.