Despite some eleventh hour parliamentary maneuvering by the House of Lords, Prime Minister Theresa May appears determined to pull the trigger on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of March and begin the formal process of the United Kingdom exiting the European Union. As Pro-Link GLOBAL has reported previously, the ramifications of the UK’s Brexit from the EU will be numerous and long-lasting. For more analysis, see our previous Global Brief here and download our comprehensive e-book here.
However, perhaps the most dramatic and immediate impact will be felt by those 2.9 million nationals of EU countries currently living and working in the UK. While the Members of Parliament debate procedural issues, and Ministers plot negotiating strategy, EU nationals in the UK hold their collective breath and await the official announcement regarding their status after Article 50 is invoked. In an effort to assuage some anxiety, Pro-Link GLOBAL offers this brief update on the state of Brexit as of today and what EU nationals residing in Great Britain can do now to prepare for the uncertain road ahead.
Status of Brexit Today
As of today, the Brexit Bill to formally authorize Prime Minister May to invoke Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty and start the two-year negotiation process for exiting the EU is currently being debated in Parliament. The bill is currently with the House of Lords, who have already dealt the May administration two significant setbacks by attaching two amendments: one guaranteeing the rights to EU nationals living in the UK, and another requiring Parliament’s approval of any final deal negotiated prior to formal exit. PM May has vowed to defeat both amendments when the bill returns to the House of Commons next week.
In statements as recent as March 2, the day after the Lords delivered the first setback, PM May was still insisting that Article 50 would be triggered on March 15. However, with the second Lord’s amendment this week, an end-of-March timetable appears more likely.
Once May triggers Article 50, the UK and the EU will then enter the long and complicated process of negotiating an exit agreement that will define their relationship once the UK leaves the EU, possibly as soon as the Spring of 2019. The issues on the table of this negotiation will cover the spectrum of international trade, border security, legal frameworks, regulatory schemes, agency roles, and cooperative ventures, but center stage in the negotiations will undoubtedly belong to the issue of immigration and the mobility of EU nationals into the UK and UK nationals into Europe.
“End of Free Movement”
Regardless of the precise date and the ultimate form of the Brexit Bill, PM May has indicated that simultaneous with the Article 50 announcement, she will announce the “end of free movement for EU migrants.” By this, she means that as of the date that Article 50 is triggered, EU nationals arriving in the country will not be automatically guaranteed the right to permanently stay in the UK. Those EU nationals arriving after that “cut-off” date would be subject to whatever residency rules are negotiated and ultimately implemented through the EU exit process. Presumably, for EU nationals already in the UK on that date, the current rights and procedures for obtaining permanent residence will still apply. However, until the Prime Minister makes the announcement electing Article 50, EU nationals are left with nagging uncertainty.
What Should EU Nationals in the UK be Doing Now?
Public statements made as recently as early February do, however, show a strong desire on the part of the May administration to ensure that EU nationals already living in the UK have the right to remain. In remarks at the start of the Brexit Bill debate in Parliament, the Prime Minister reiterated that she wants to guarantee the right of EU nationals to stay in the UK “as soon as possible.” Bearing in mind that the process with the EU going forward is a negotiation, and that there are 1.2 million UK nationals also living in the EU, both sides should be strongly motivated to maintain the status quo for their citizens already living abroad. So, while the status is less clear for EU nationals entering the UK after the Article 50 announcement, there is certain to be a mechanism put in place for EU nationals already in the UK to remain.
While we watch for the details of such a mechanism to take shape, there are some concrete steps EU nationals living in the UK can do now to place themselves in the best-possible position to face the uncertain road ahead. Pro-Link GLOBAL has been recommending to its EU national clients working in the UK, and their families, to do the following:
- For EU nationals who have resided continually in the UK for more than five years - apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, UK’s form of permanent residency. More information can be found on the Home Office website here.
- For EU nationals who have resided in the UK for less than five years – apply for a Registration Certificate. While EU nationals are not required to register, a Registration Certificate provides documentary proof of the right to reside in the UK. More information can be found on the Home Office website here.
For assistance with obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain or a Registration Certificate, please reach out to your Pro-Link GLOBAL UK Immigration Specialist.
Need More Information and Support?
Obviously, the state of immigration in the UK is highly fluid right now, with almost weekly changes in the Brexit picture, and significant changes to the Tier 2 employment-based immigration stream scheduled for April 6. Pro-Link GLOBAL is closely monitoring developments from our London office and will continue to support our clients with the most reliable, up-to-date information.
For a thorough, interactive discussion of the important issues currently impacting companies and their foreign employees in the UK – focusing on the upcoming changes to the Tier 2 scheme – register for our March 15 UK immigration webinar here. Pro-Link GLOBAL’s UK Immigration Counsel and Solicitor, Ruby Anugwom, will be presenting an in-depth look at all the changes in UK immigration and how best to respond to them.
This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. We would like to remind you that Immigration laws are fluid and can change at a moment's notice without any warning. Please reach out to your immigration specialist or your client relations manager at Pro-Link GLOBAL should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by your Pro-Link GLOBAL Knowledge Management team.
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