No EU citizen in the UK will have to leave as a result of Brexit, according to assurances from prime minister Theresa May.
Speaking to the House of Commons yesterday, May laid down a nine-point plan for EU nationals living in the UK, including a promise not to split up families, a streamlined registration system, and a ‘settled’ status for those who have been living in the UK for more than five years.
Those granted the settled status will be able to live, work, study and claim benefits, as they can at the moment. The cut-off date for eligibility will be between 29 March 2017 and 29 March 2019.
Karen Grave, vice president of the Public Services People Managers' Association (PPMA), told HR magazine that this is a “positive development” for the public sector. “It has put some immediate fears to rest,” she said. “But while this is a positive development, we need to see how much this stems the tide of people leaving the UK for their home countries as a result of the Brexit vote.
“We still need to do a lot of work nationally, and ensure that we are able to provide fulfilling positions for those [EU] workers already in our workforce.”
Charlie Pring, senior counsel in the employment, pensions and mobility team at international law firm Taylor Wessing, said that this announcement does not settle the issues completely.
“Despite there supposedly being consensus over resolving citizens' rights, in some respects the UK's 'fair and generous' proposal for EU citizens to gain settled status after five years falls a long way short of what the EU27 were expecting,” he said. “The devil is in the detail where complex rights are involved, so EU officials will conduct a forensic analysis on whether the UK's offer dilutes fundamental free movement rights available to EU citizens already in the UK.”
Nick Rollason, immigration law partner at Kingsley Napley, pointed out the huge administrative burden applying for 'settled' status could represent.
“Since the referendum, over 100,000 EU nationals and their family members have applied for, and obtained, EU Permanent Residence status. Making them re-apply is a waste, not only of their time and money, but also of UK public funds and of Home Office resources," he said.
He added that government's Safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU paper "fell well short" of providing clarity on the position of those EU citizens arriving after the cut-off date.
"The document says that whether they will be able to stay in the longer term depends 'on the rules in place at the time' they apply," he said. "Does this mean they could be subject to very strict rules on work sponsorship and would effectively have to re-apply for their own jobs to meet the current requirements? Would those who have set up businesses here, and retired here, need to show minimum investment thresholds, as non-EU nationals have to do now?
"This uncertainty will not make the UK an attractive proposition for the highly-skilled, entrepreneurial or wealthy EU citizens the UK should be attracting”.