11 December 2017
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has further clarified the rights of EU citizens after Brexit. Her comments follow the conclusion of the latest round of negotiations with the European Commission.
The assurances the Prime Minister made included:
- That the rights of EU citizens will be written into UK law.
- That those rights will be enforced by UK courts. Where appropriate, UK courts will pay due regard to relevant European Court of Justice (ECJ) case law, and where existing case law is not clear – UK courts will be able to choose to ask the ECJ for an interpretation prior to reaching their decision.
- A new settled status scheme will be introduced for EU citizens and their family members.
Key features of the new settled status scheme will be:
- If an EU citizen already has five years of continuous residence in the UK at Brexit (29 March 2019) – they will be eligible for settled status.
- If they have been here for less than five years they will be able to stay until they reach the five year threshold.
- EU citizens with settled status can be joined in the UK by close family members after the UK has left the EU. This includes existing spouses, unmarried partners, children, dependent parents and grandparents.
- Healthcare rights, pension and other benefit provisions will remain the same as they are today.
- EU citizens with settled status will be able to be absent from the UK for up to five years without losing their status – more than double the period allowed under current EU law.
The agreement reached with the EU includes reciprocal rules to protect existing decisions to recognise professional qualifications – for example for doctors and architects.
The Government says it will introduce a transparent, smooth and streamlined process to enable EU citizens to apply for settled status from the second half of next year. And it says the process will cost no more than applying for a passport. And if you already have a valid permanent resident document you will be able to have your status converted to settled status free of charge.
The Government also says that it is working closely with Switzerland and EEA Member States to ensure their citizens in the UK also benefit from these arrangements.