Free Movement of People could end with a No-Deal Brexit

Over recent days, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has stated that if no-deal is reached with the EU, free movement rules will end immediately on 31st October.

In a follow up to that statement made Home Office, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said that the UK would not “become hostile to immigration,” but it would be “democratically controlled” after Brexit. This was followed by a statement another statement from the Home Office who said that EU citizens currently living in the UK would still have until December 2020 to apply for the right to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme, so this will not change and our dedicated team of immigration solicitors can help you through this process.

Additionally, Boris Johnson has said that he wants to reach a new agreement with the EU and has made this clear in a letter to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. He is also setting off today for a European tour where he will meet with both Angela Merkel in Germany and with Emmanuel Macron in Paris tomorrow. Both of these meetings are expected to be regarding the Brexit process however many reports suggest that they will concentrate very briefly on this and will be more about international affairs, climate change and security.

Will EU citizens in the UK be affected by a No-Deal scenario?

If a no-deal scenario occurs EU citizens with the right to permanent residence in the UK i.e. those who have been in the country for 5 years or more should not see their rights affected.

In order to secure a solid immigration status, EU nationals who are already in the country should apply for settled status or pre-settled status in the same way as now, through the EU Settlement Scheme.

For new EU nationals, if free movement ends with a no-deal on October 31st 2019 and you are arriving in the UK (after this date) with the aim to live and work in the country for the long term then you will be subject to UK immigration rules and will need to get permission by applying for “leave to remain” through the relevant immigration channels.

The Home Office has stated that the end to the freedom of movement, if a no-deal scenario is reached, will not affect EU citizens who are coming to the UK for holidays, but would rather impact those persons who wish to work or study in the UK and the changes to freedom of movement will not affect Irish citizens.

Can the UK Government just stop the freedom of movement?

Currently, the EU policy of freedom of movement will automatically transfer into EU law on exit day as stated in the European Union Withdrawal Act completed by the UK Parliament in 2018. The current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, amongst other Ministers can change some regulations in UK law to end the freedom of movement on October 31st by using statutory instruments which are a form of secondary legislation however without the introduction of the Immigration Bill that has currently been shelved this will not possible. The government obviously needs to give this policy of ending free movement more thought before it enacts the Immigration Bill and carries out any drastically extreme actions. Realistically, if free movement ends abruptly it would be an absolute fiasco for the UK border agency staff to control and for the UK Immigration system to process.

Some facts about what value EU citizens give to the UK

Figures indicate that there are over 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK and these individuals contribute significantly to all parts of society. For example, our NHS system relies on 20,000 nurses, 10,000 doctors and 14,000 clinical support staff from EU countries outside of the UK. Over the last 2 years, it has already lost more than 5,000 EU nurses and is suffering from a shortage where there are 40,000 positions vacant. There are also, 82,000 EU citizens working in social care, and another 84,000 in the construction industry, so the question is in the case of a no-deal, how will these industries survive?

(Facts and figures are taken from the independent newspaper 20th August 2019)

Applying through the EU Settlement Scheme

As stated above the rules on this front do not change, if the UK leaves the EU with a deal, then the deadline for EU nationals to register through the EU Settlement Scheme is 30th June 2021. And, in a worst-case scenario if there is a no-deal breakaway, then the deadline to apply through the Scheme will be 31st December 2020. You can apply through the scheme either to gain settled or pre-settled status. Find out more about what this means here.

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