Brexit – Two months on
The UK immigration landscape continues to be dominated by Brexit. The questions of ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘what’ remain unanswered and some commentators are even starting to question ‘if’ Brexit will actually take place, although this may be wishful thinking. Whilst focusing on the possibility that Brexit might not actually happen may provide some comfort to many immigration practitioners, it is simply not an effective solution for the 3.6million EU citizens currently residing in the UK.
So what does Brexit look like now?
The initial assertions from the Brexit camp that Article 50 would be triggered immediately have cooled both by the passing of time and more measured comments delivered away from the rhetoric and furore of the referendum debate. The touted date for Brexit has been pushed further and further into the distance, and the latest timeframe appears to indicate that Article 50 will be triggered in 2017 ahead of Brexit in early 2019, however not many would bet against that date being pushed back further.
Reported statements from the UK government suggest that the current plan for the Brexit discussions are to harness the spirit of Britain’s Olympic ‘world-beaters’ to draw up a blueprint for Brexit. If ever there was a clear indication that no plan is in place – this is it. The referendum took place two months ago, and it appears that still nobody knows what Brexit will actually mean.
So what does this mean for EEA nationals?
Uncertainty is rarely a positive, but for EEA nationals the delays and confusion provide an opportunity to cement their position. There are two categories of EEA national who will be affected by Brexit, as follows:
1. EEA nationals considering moving to the UK
It is unclear whether the government will set a back-dated cut-off date from which EEA nationals will cease to be protected by free movement provisions. However, the message from Westminster thus far is that those EEA nationals currently in the UK should be protected – both in the interests of fairness, and also as a safeguard to ensure that the status of British citizens living elsewhere in the EEA is not affected. The delays in triggering Article 50 alongside this reluctance to punish EEA nationals currently in the UK, would appear to give those considering the move to the UK an opportunity to do so as well as time to cement their position in the UK prior to any changes to free movement being made.
2. EEA nationals currently resident in the UK
At Mishcon de Reya, our advice to all EEA clients is to seek to formalise their position in the UK. Those who have exercised Treaty Rights for the five year qualifying period should apply for Permanent Residence, whilst those who cannot satisfy the requirements to acquire Permanent Residence in the UK are advised to apply for a Registration Certificate in order to place them in the UK prior to any future changes regarding free movement.
How Brexit will pan out, no one knows, but from an immigration perspective, the current delays mean that EEA nationals should not panic and should take the time to ensure that they are doing all they can to protect their position.
Authors: Maria Patsalos, Partner & David Deane, Associate – Mishcon de Reya