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By Jack Gevertz
A new Bill which aims to end the EU’s free movement rules in the UK will also lead to the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit being stripped. That’s according to a new Parliamentary report.
The Human Rights Committee says the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill will put EU citizens in a situation “of precarity” as to their housing and social security rights.
It says EU migrants also risk being detained by enforcement officers as a result of the changes proposed in the Bill.
The main focus of the Bill is to end the freedom of movement rules around the EU that also apply to the UK as a member state. Free movement allowed EU citizens to come to the UK for as long as they wanted: to work, study and settle. They could also bring partners and family members. But these things will cease to apply once Brexit has happened.
The Bill also gives powers to the Government to be allowed to amend the social security rights that EU nationals currently have.
So, it does not provide any protections for these people. And, nor does it address the practical implications of removing these rights for those EU nationals already here or those who want to come here.
The report argues that secondary legislation – which are powers given to the Government as a result of an Act of Parliament – would not completely protect EU nationals.
In fact, it is not clear how any amendment to the changes could ensure EU nationals’ rights in the future. Instead, it would need new primary legislation. In other words, a fresh Act of Parliament.
The EU Settlement Scheme is a Government initiative that allows EU citizens already in the UK to continue living here once Britain has left the EU. Those who want to take part have until the end of June 2021 to do so.
Once you’ve applied, if you are accepted, you will get one of two statuses: pre-settled status or settled status. Pre-settled status is given if you have been living in the UK for fewer than five years. Settled status is given if you have been in the UK for at least five years.
You can be on pre-settled status for as long as it takes to reach the five years threshold. During that time, you are also allowed to access healthcare, benefits and any other right that a settled status individual would enjoy.
However, the report has noted a number of challenges in relation to the Bill and the EU Settlement Scheme.
The first is that the Home Office has not said whether physical proof of residency will be provided. This is useful and may be needed when wanting to prove your stay in the UK.
The second is that there is a degree of ambiguity in relation to those EU nationals who miss the deadline for applying to the scheme. The report argues that steps should be taken to minimise the impact of this. It says registrations should be permitted outside the allotted time period or it could ensure entitlement to the Settled Status is not dependent on just registering via this scheme.
The third is focused on vulnerable groups. Those unable to use a computer, for example, may be excluded entirely from being able to use the scheme. The report calls for those who may need to be helped by the Government.
The Common Travel Area (CTA) is an open borders agreement between the UK, Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and the Republic of Ireland. It pre-dates both the UK’s and Ireland’s entry into the EU.
However, there have been some concerns raised about its existence after Brexit. Firstly, the agreement will be protected once the UK has left the EU, but some rights afforded as both a member state of the CTA and the EU will be lost. For example, the CTA does not currently permit people to bring their third country national spouse or dependents into the UK. This will impact Irish nationals living in the UK with their foreign spouse. There’s a further concern around family reunification. This could be completely impacted if the rules regarding the CTA do not mirror those of the EU.
Secondly, the CTA does not address other rights that the EU currently does. On employment, education or healthcare, for example. The report recommends the UK Government consults with the Irish Government on ways to address and improve this.
If you’re an EU, Irish or UK citizen and you’re worried about your immigration status, you can contact one of our experienced immigration lawyers for help and advice. You can give us a call on 0333 363 8577 or leave us an enquiry and we’ll get back to you.