As you will have heard, a joint report was published by the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom government reporting on the progress made during phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations.
This note summarises the agreement as far as citizens’ rights are concerned, and draws out the implications as we see them for UCL EU staff and their families.
Agreement in principle was reached in the following three areas:
- protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU
- the framework for addressing the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland
- the financial settlement.
The conclusions in the joint report will be used as the basis for drafting the Withdrawal Agreement. While the joint report is clear that it is subject to the caveat that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, the EU is now exploring how to make the agreement legally binding.
EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU
The joint report provides welcome clarification that the Withdrawal Agreement will “provide reciprocal protection for Union and UK citizens, to enable the effective exercise of rights derived from Union Law and based on past life choices where those citizens have exercised free movement rights by the specified date”.
The effect of this should be reciprocal protection for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU on the date of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, including their family members resident in the UK.
In addition, the current broad proposal is that family members (as defined in the agreement) should be entitled to join the protected individual at a later date, for the lifetime of the right holder under the same conditions.
The UK government is committed to implementing a system that will require EU citizens to obtain confirmation of their right to live and work in the UK (known as “settled status”). The UK will need to ensure that individuals have at least two years after the date of withdrawal to submit their application and the process should be transparent, smooth and streamlined.
EU citizens who reside in the UK and who have already acquired permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain status under the current regime will be able to have this converted to the new immigration status of settled status.
The joint report says: “In order to obtain status under the Withdrawal Agreement by application, those already holding a permanent residence document issued under Union Law at the specified date will have that document converted into the new document free of charge, subject only to verification of identify, a criminality and security check and confirmation of ongoing residence”.
The joint report states that permanent residence will not be lost unless an individual has been absent from the UK for five consecutive years. This is positive news and will be of particular interest to academic colleagues, whose careers may require extended travel relating to pursue their research, study and career development
EU staff and students have been, and remain, our first priority in our approach to Brexit. We have actively lobbied the government, calling for an up-front guarantee for EU citizens to continue to have the same rights after the UK leaves the EU.
We know what a valuable contribution our EU staff make to the work of UCL and we see this as a positive step towards providing some reassurances to EU citizens. We will continue to do all we can to support and communicate with staff as the negotiations continue.
Theresa May has also written an open letter to EU citizens in the UK reassuring them they will be allowed to stay after Brexit.
In a letter published on her Facebook page, the Prime Minister said the rights of EU nationals in the UK "remains a priority". She also sought to reassure EU citizens negotiators are close to reaching a deal on the rights of EU citizens in the UK.
Please note that this information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.
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