The UK Government has published its proposals for safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK post Brexit (link). Settling the future of citizens exercising their right of free movement and providing legal certainty for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU is recognised as a key priority for the withdrawal negotiations both by the UK and the EU. Despite these principles being agreed, negotiations on the detailed arrangements can be expected to be complex and the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, described the UK's proposals as insufficient, claiming that "more ambition, clarity and guarantees will be needed".
The UK is proposing to introduce a new 'settled status' in UK law for EU citizens who have been resident in the UK before a specified date (not yet defined but to be no earlier than 29 March 2017 and no later than the date of the UK's withdrawal). This status will only be available to those with five years' residence, but other individuals resident in the UK before the specified date will be able to apply for a temporary residence permit to cover the period until they have accumulated five years.
Settled status will allow individuals to work or study here, live permanently in the UK and have access to the same benefits and public services as UK nationals. But there remain a number of gaps, for example rights of former residents are not addressed, and there are areas where EU citizens will lose some of the rights they currently enjoy under the free movement rules, for example in relation to family rights. The exact nature of some of the rights is also not clear and issues of implementation and enforcement will be left to the UK courts, so EU citizens will lose the legal protection of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) which they currently enjoy.
Compared with the EU's demands for citizens' rights, which require that the status and the rights derived from EU law will automatically be safeguarded for the lifetime of those concerned, there are several shortcomings in the UK's proposals, leaving plenty for the negotiating teams to work on before a final position is reached.
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