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Brexit Meltdown - is Freedom of Movement Ending?

View profile for Chloe Pereira
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With the Government moving the goalposts as often as our Summer comes and goes it can be difficult to work out what the current party line is when it comes to EU nationals in the UK come Brexit day.

In January 2019 the Government published information which confirmed that EU nationals:

  • Could still enter the UK as they do now, even in the event of a no deal, and stay for up to 3 months as a visitor
  • Would need to apply for “European temporary leave to remain” to stay longer than 3 months
  • Would be able to live, work and study in the UK with European temporary leave to remain for up to 3 years or until 1 January 2021 (whichever comes sooner)
  • Would have to apply under the new immigration system (yet to be confirmed) which will come into effect on 1 January 2021 in order to stay longer

The above information is still available online, however the latest Government media factsheet, published after Boris Johnson stepped in, makes no reference to the European temporary leave to remain. The August factsheet states the following:

  • Freedom of movement as we know it will end on 31 October 2019
  • EU nationals can still visit the UK for up to 3 months
  • Other changes which will apply post Brexit day and “improvements to the previous government’s plans for a new immigration system are being developed”
  • The PM wants to introduce an Australian style points based immigration system
  • All EU nationals and their families resident in the UK by 31 October 2019 will remain eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme
  • If you are an EU national normally resident in the UK who is abroad on Brexit day, you will be able to re-enter the UK

What this really means in practice is that any EU national resident in the UK by 31 October 2019 has no need to worry. If you plan to be abroad across that date and you haven’t already secured your settled or pre-settled status then it would be advisable to take some evidence of your residence in the UK, just in case it makes things easier at passport control (e.g. payslips, lease, HMRC records).

The factsheet is aimed to allay the fears of EU nationals already resident in the UK, and whilst I think that target audience is safe, the future for any EU nationals wanting to come and work or live in the UK post Brexit is pretty unclear. Any EU national who is not currently resident in the UK but has plans to be, should do their best to bring those plans forward to pre-Brexit day given the uncertainty as to what will happen in a no deal scenario.

The factsheet extols the PM’s plans for an Australian style immigration system – but we already have a points based immigration system, which has been in place for 11 years. Some aspects of Australia’s points based system are similar to ours, others very different but with no further clues from the Government as to their intentions, we remain in the dark. Whatever the Government does decide to do next will have a huge impact on EU nationals who may want to come to the UK in the future and the UK businesses who rely on a steady stream of EU workers. Let’s hope we hear sooner rather than later, the clock is ticking…


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