‘Brexit’ – what does this mean for EU citizens?

Jul 8, 2016

Current political uncertainties will be a cause for concern for many individualsBrexit...

With political activity in Britain over the last few days resembling a typhoon, you would be mistaken for thinking that the UK voted to leave the EU over a year ago. Only two weeks back, this pivotal vote was announced.

Since the EU referendum we have seen a Prime Minister resign, MPs furiously racing to become candidates for the top job and EU leaders hastily running to emergency meetings. If that wasn’t enough, the top two candidates for the role of PM, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom, are promising different things when it comes to protecting the right to remain of EU nationals in the UK.

Home Secretary, Theresa May, has refused to publically state whether EU nationals may be asked to leave the UK, whereas Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, has vowed to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK.

In reality, there is no certainty as to whether protecting the rights of EU nationals is something that can be achieved for definite without Article 50 and, therefore, negotiations being triggered beforehand.

At the moment, everything that politicians, journalists and the general public have been talking about regarding ‘Brexit’ is speculative.

In the meantime, here are a few scenarios that may unfold in the coming years:

A right to remain for qualified persons  

It is likely that those EU nationals currently residing in the UK as qualified persons (workers, job-seekers, students, self-employed and self-sufficient individuals) will have an automatic right to remain provided that they apply for some sort of residency document proving their right to live and work in the United Kingdom. The main concern would be those individuals that are not seen as qualified persons and whether their immigration status would be safe.

An ‘Australian style’ points based system

Whilst we already have a British points based system in place for non-EU citizens, it is likely that a similar, ‘Australian style’ points based system would be applicable to all EU and non-EU citizens wanting to live and work in the UK. If the current points based system is anything to go by, industries such as construction and catering would likely to be hit hardest.

Restrictions for new EU citizen arrivals post official Brexit

As it stands, most EU citizens already in the UK should (in theory) have a safe immigration status, however, it is highly likely that post the UK officially leaving the European Union, which is not likely to happen until at least the 1st January 2019, new EU citizens would be faced with restrictions on living and working in the UK.

What we recommend for EU citizens

From now on, we recommend that all EU citizens thinking of living in the UK post-Brexit, hold paper based evidence of their immigration status in the UK. At the moment, EU nationals can work in the UK by showing evidence of their original passport or EU identity card. Depending on how long EU nationals have resided in the UK, it is now highly recommended that they either apply for a permanent residency document (if they have been a qualified person for at least 5 continuous years in the UK), or a residency certificate.

Numerous EU citizens will be caught out with the fact that they did not take out comprehensive sickness insurance at a time when they were either a self-sufficient person, a work-seeker or student.

In a nutshell, we advise individuals to keep up to speed with current affairs, UK/EU negotiations and not to panic. In effect, changes will only take place after negotiations have concluded.