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Following the commencement of formal Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU, the Government this week published its policy paper “Safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU” (the “Policy Paper”) outlining how it intends to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU. Although the Government’s policy is no doubt a work in progress, the Policy Paper should go some way to making clear the Government’s intent to safeguard the position of EU citizens, which should provide greater certainty for businesses.
The key points contained in the Policy Paper (and the Prime Minister’s address to the House of Commons on 26 June 2017) include, amongst others:
- The creation of a new “settled status” for EU citizens (and citizens of the three EEA countries and Switzerland) who arrive in the UK prior to a designated cut-off date. Such a cut-off date has not yet been specified and will be agreed during the negotiations.
- Those persons with 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK will be eligible immediately for settled status. Any persons who arrive before the agreed date but have not resided in the UK for 5 continuous years will be permitted to stay until they reach that milestone and can also secure settled status.
- EU citizens granted settled status will be treated comparably to a UK national with broadly the same rights in respect of healthcare, benefits and pensions.
- A grace period of up to 2 years will be established for all EU citizens (including those who arrive after the agreed cut-off date), giving them time to regularise their status. No guarantee is being made by the Government, however, that settled status will be granted.
- The UK courts should police the new rules rather than the European Court of Justice. This is, however, likely to be an area of contentious negotiation between the UK and the EU.
- The application process will be simplified and a “light touch” approach adopted. However, EU citizens who currently have permanent residence in the UK are being asked to re-apply to obtain the new status.
There are a number of areas not dealt with in the Policy Paper, such as whether the employer sponsorship licence scheme will be extended to EU nationals wanting to work in the UK for the first time, the rights of daily or weekly commuters who travel from the EU to work in the UK but are not residents, or the rights of students to work in the UK after completing their education. However, it is made clear that the UK intends to continue to recognise professional qualifications obtained in the Member States prior to the UK’s withdrawal, subject to a reciprocal deal being agreed ensuring professional qualifications obtained in the UK and EU Member States continue to be mutually recognised.
We will continue to monitor and report on the issues raised in this alert from the perspective of our clients, as we have done so in prior alerts relating to Brexit. To access such prior alerts, please visit our Brexit page here. Further updates will follow in due course.
In the blur of mega firms, Brown Rudnick stands out as a “global boutique” and has in place a multi-disciplinary, international Brexit Team. We are monitoring and analysing the consequences and considerations for businesses and are ready to advise on the potential legal implications of Brexit. The Brown Rudnick Brexit Team is available to advise on the issues across a broad range of sectors within our areas of expertise.
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