A 60 Second Guide To Brexit For EU/EEA Nationals

Brexit Flags

When Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, he declared he would rather “die in a ditch” than ask the European Union to extend the 31st October deadline for Brexit. Halloween has come and gone , and Britain is:

  • still a member of the EU, and
  • having an election on 12 December 2019.

For EU/EEA nationals, this new development does nothing but simply equals further ongoing confusion and frustration. Not only must they, along with the rest of the population, try toand keep track of almost daily changes to the political landscape, EU/EEA nationals cannot express their concern through casting a vote in the upcoming election .

Then, of course, there are the ongoing issues with the EU Settlement Scheme, which that may very well turn into another ‘Windrush scandal’ if certain matters are not addressed. More on this later. First, let’s set out the current state of the Brexit saga.

A deal almost done?

In mid-October 2019, Britain and the EU agreed a Brexit deal in principle, known as the Withdrawal Agreement. Note – this is not a trade deal. It is simply a document which sets out how the UK will leave the EU. It deals with certain key issues, namely:

  • The status of EU nationals living in the UK, and UK nationals living in the EU at the time of exit.
  • The transition period, whereby the UK will still be part of the EU trading bloc whilst a formal trade agreement is negotiated (the period can be extended if all parties agree). This avoids the dreaded ‘cliff-edge’ whereby the UK leaves the EU on a specific date with no trade deal in place, a situation likely to cause severe economic damage.
  • How Northern Ireland will be treated following Brexit. A backstop has been created to ensure that regardless of the outcome of any future trade deal, there will not be a border and customs checks on the island of Ireland. This is because a hard border between Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (which is an EU member state) may jeopardise the Good Friday agreement which ended decades of violence and hostility.
  • The financial settlement the UK must pay to the EU upon leaving. This is known as the ‘divorce bill’.
  • Fishing rights. The document says: “The Union and the United Kingdom shall use their best endeavours to conclude and ratify ‘an agreement’ on access to waters and fishing opportunities.”
  • The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during the transition period and the setting up of a joint UK-EU committee to deal with disputes related to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Although the EU and the British government agreed on a deal, British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson had to get it approved by Parliament. And this is where things got rather messy.

Parliament granted preliminary approval to the Withdrawal Agreement. However, a mere 15 minutes later, MPs voted down legislation which would have paved the way for the Prime Minister to ensure Britain left the EU by 31 October 2019.

Following this defeat, rather than try and push through the agreement, the Prime Minister successfully fought for a pre-Christmas election. The EU had granted an extension to 31 January 2020. If the Conservative Party win a majority at the polls, Mr Johnson can push his deal through Parliament and the UK will leave the bloc in the New Year.

The EU Settlement Scheme

The EU Settlement Scheme opened fully on 30 March 2019 and will remain live until 30 June 2021. EU/EEA nationals who have lived in the UK for five or more years can apply for Settled Status, which will confirm their right to live and work in the UK without visa restrictions. EU/EEA nationals who have been in the country for less than five years may apply for Pre-Settled Status.

Applications for Settled Status and Pre-Settled Status can be made online. However, newspapers have reported many instances of Settled Status being mistakenly denied. For example, prominent chef and cooking school owner, Richard Bertinet, was granted only Pre-Settled Status , despite having lived in Britain for over three decades. This also happened to the Polish celebrity chef Damian Wawrzyniak , who has prepared banquets for the royal family and was a senior chef at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Mr Bertinet has since been granted Settled Status. In another case, a South Oxfordshire district councillor from Bulgaria was denied Settled Status for not sending in the correct documentation, despite living in the country for almost 20 years.

There are grave concerns that vulnerable EU/EEA citizens, such as those who do not have payslips, are elderly, or have learning disabilities will not apply or be denied Settled Status. And disturbingly, Home Office minister, Brandon Lewis told a German newspaper in October that EU/EEA nationals who did not apply for Settled Status before the deadline would be deported. The Liberal Democrat’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said she was “absolutely appalled” by Brandon Lewis’s deportation threat and she predicted “thousands” of people would be left undocumented by the “arbitrary” deadline.

Wrapping Up

So, here we are. For the second time in less than four years, Britain will go to the polls. For EU/EEA nationals, it is imperative to secure residency status as quickly as possible. If you are having problems with your Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status application, or your application has been rejected, seek advice from an experienced immigration lawyer.

Based in Birmingham and London, UK Migration Lawyers is one of Britain’s premier immigration law firms. If you have any concerns or questions regarding Brexit or the EU Settlement Scheme, please phone our Birmingham Office on 0121 777 7715.

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