Brexit: Future Mobility Arrangements
There have been significant developments since the last update in terms of both clarity on the position for UK nationals in the EU and EU nationals in the UK and general progress of negotiations on a Withdrawal Agreement to govern the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.
The Settlement Scheme
The European Commission and the UK agreed in March that free-movement rights would continue during the Brexit transition period. On 21 June 2018, Secretary of State Sajid Javid MP announced a policy to grant settled and pre-settled status to EU migrants in the UK prior to the end of the transition — that is, EU nationals and their family members living in the UK before midnight on 31 December 2020. Under the scheme, individuals must register their status. Those with five years of continuous residence will be able to apply for settled status. Those who have not been in the UK for five years by that date will be able to apply for a bridging pre-settled status, until they meet the five years required for settlement. Family members in the UK will be able to apply under the scheme, and close family members living overseas will still be able to join an EU citizen resident in the UK after the transition period, where the relationship existed on 31 December 2020 and continues to exist when the person wishes to come to the UK. The online application process is set to be short, simple, and user-friendly, with a nominal cost (a maximum of GBP 65 per person). In most cases, applicants will be asked to confirm their identity and continuous residence in the UK and criminal conviction checking will be undertaken. The Home Office has said that they are expecting to grant the vast majority of applications, with refusals most likely to be in cases of serious and/or persistent criminality.
The Mobility Framework
Looking now beyond the transition period, on 6 July 2018 the UK government issued a statement outlining its vision for a future relationship with the EU, suggesting that the new relationship would include a mobility framework so that UK and EU citizens can continue to travel to one another’s territories and apply for study and work permits (similar to what the UK may offer other close trading partners in the future).
This was followed on 12 July 2018 by a white paper setting out an overview of the UK’s vision for these future mobility arrangements. The paper states that the UK would seek reciprocal agreements that would allow UK nationals to visit the EU without a visa for short-term business reasons and equivalent arrangements for EU citizens coming to the UK. Similar to the current business visitor provisions, this would only permit paid work in limited and clearly defined circumstances. There will also be discussions on how to facilitate the temporary mobility of investors, among others (posted workers, scientists and researchers, and self-employed professionals). Similar to the proposals for short-term business visitors, the UK will also seek to allow EU national tourists to the UK to enter without a visa and vice versa through reciprocal provisions. The paper confirms that a detailed immigration system post Brexit will be formalized in a future white paper and immigration bill that will be consistent with the UK government’s intention to end free movement in the UK.
Progress of Negotiations and Impact on Settlement Scheme
While the settlement scheme is a positive development and good news for those impacted, the extensive reporting of a potential no-deal Brexit has caused worry among UK and EU nationals living therein. The Secretary of State has sought to reassure EU nationals that they will not be asked to leave the UK even if no withdrawal agreement can be reached by 29 March 2019.