Author- Chloe Chaplain
Special rules allowing EU nationals to freely work and live in the UK will end overnight if the UK leaves the EU without a Brexit deal.
The Government has confirmed that it will immediately end Freedom of Movement in the UK if it leaves without a deal on 31 October 2019 – which is looking increasingly likely as both sides appear unable to find a compromise.
There were previously plans in place to avoid major disruptions for EU citizens wishing to move to the UK, which involved delaying the restrictions until the end of 2020.
But this has been scrapped by the new government in favour of a new immigration scheme being rapidly developed by the Home Office.
EU nationals already living in the UK
Settled Status (SS) scheme
The government has said the Settled Status (SS) scheme – which allows EU nationals living in the UK to apply for the right to remain – will still be open to applicants until December 2020.
The scheme requires EU nationals who live in the UK to provide proof of their eligibility to remain through their passport and living address.
A Home Office spokesman confirmed that, whether there is a deal or a no-deal Brexit, EU nationals who resident in the UK on or before 11pm on 31 October 2019 will still have their rights protected.
What if I have not applied for SS?
There were concerns that two of the three million EU nationals living in the UK, who have not yet applied for Settled Status, could find themselves suddenly unable to stay in the UK on 31 October.
But the Government said anyone eligible for settled status will not be barred from living in the UK when free movement ends – even if they have not applied.
It does, however, encourage them to apply. Applying for Settled Status is free and can be done using this link.
The Home Office said the deadline to apply will be December 2020 – more than a year after the Leave date.
What if I haven’t applied for SS by December 2020?
EU nationals living in the UK will have until “at least” December 2020 to apply for Settled Status but it has not clarified what will happen to those who do not do so before this deadline.
The Government committed to protecting the rights of all EU nationals living in the UK before 31 October but it is not clear whether this would still be the case if they fail to apply for Settled Status by the extended deadline.
Will I still have the same benefits?
Anyone who has had their Settled Status application approved by the Government will be free to work, live, claim benefits, and use services – such as the NHS – as they did before.
The Government is strongly encouraging EU citizens and their families to apply to the Settled Status scheme, but it those who haven’t applied when free movement ends will still have the same entitlements to work, benefits and services and will be able to prove these in the same way as they do now.
It said that there will be more guidance coming for those who arrive after Freedom of Movement ends.
What if I am on holiday at the time of the deadline?
The Government said that EU citizens and their families would still be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme, even if they are on holiday over Brexit, because their records will show that they live in the UK.
No one eligible for status will be barred from re-entering the UK when free movement ends.
But two million people have not applied yet…
Yes, as pointed out by campaign group the3million, the Government has processed just over one million Settled Status applications since 29 March, meaning a further two million still do not have status.
“It’s leaving over 2 million EU citizens who, if freedom of movement is really ending abruptly on Oct 31st, will have no official proof that they have the right to live and work in the UK,” the group said.
“Ending freedom of movement abruptly, before all EU citizens in the UK can be issued with a status under the EU Settlement Scheme will create two sets of EU citizens. One set who have the automatic right to live and work and those who arrive after October 31st, who haven’t.
“Those two sets of EU citizens will be indistinguishable to landlords, banks, employers and the NHS. How are organisations meant determine which rights those EU citizens in front of them will have?
“This country, our home, must not allow for any policy that will lead to mass discrimination.”
The Home Office said: “EU citizens are our friends, family and neighbours and we want them to stay. The EU Settlement Scheme protects the rights of EU citizens and we encourage them to apply. One million people have been granted status under the Scheme already.
“It’s important to remember we are looking for reasons to grant, not reasons to refuse.”
EU nationals living outside the UK
What has changed?
The Government said that the UK would be leaving the EU on 13 October “come what may”, increasing the chance that we could end up with a no-deal Brexit.
This would mean that there will be no two-year transitional period phasing out our membership of the UK – during which time Freedom of Movement would have continued.
In a no-deal Brexit, Freedom of Movement will end as soon as the UK leaves the EU on midnight 31 October 2019.
Theresa May had promised that, in a no deal, free movement would have been replace with “European Temporary Leave to Remain” which would allow EU, EEA and Swiss citizens arriving in the UK after Brexit to live, work and study in the UK.
What happens when Freedom of Movement ends?
This mean that EU nationals who do not already live in the country will not be able to freely enter the UK to work, or live, or stay for an extended amount of time, without being subject to the same immigration checks as people from other countries.
The UK already has a points-based system for all non-EU migrants and this will now extend to apply to EU migrants coming to the UK.
What will the new immigration rules be?
The system awards points for various aspects of a person’s application such as English language skills, being sponsored by a company and meeting a salary threshold.
The Government has pledged to change this system to make it more like the Australian point-based system which could assess applicants trying to get a working visa on their age or educational qualifications or salary.
The Government has also said it will immediately introduce tougher criminality rules for people entering the UK, which will be based on the UK criminality threshold rather than the EU threshold.
Details of how the immigration system will actually be changed are still being developed by the Government and would likely then need to be approved by the Commons.
Can EU nationals visit on holiday?
EU citizens will still be able to come to the UK on holiday or for short visits.
It is not yet clear whether they would be required to obtain a short-term tourist visa.
What about Irish citizens?
The ending of Freedom of Movement will not affect Irish citizens because of the Common Travel Area which allows for open borders between the UK and Ireland.
If you’re an Irish citizen, you’ll be able to enter the UK without a visa, as you are able to before Brexit. You will also be able to work or study while you’re here.
British and Irish ministers have already signed a deal to guarantee free movement for citizens crossing the Irish border.