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Remix to Transition

02 March 2018

This week the government released a new proposal on EU citizens arriving in the UK during the Brexit 'transition period', which is set to run for about two years after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

The proposal garnered headlines because it suggested that they could secure five-year temporary residence permits, rather than the two-year permits that had previously been proposed. EU citizens arriving in the UK during the transition period would therefore be given the chance to build up the five years’ residence that is needed to settle in the UK.

Those who arrive and register in the UK will be offered “a temporary status in UK law that will enable them to stay after the implementation period has concluded – this means that they will be able to remain lawfully in the UK working, studying or being self-sufficient for the five years needed to obtain settlement”. The proposal makes clear that Europeans who arrive during the transition period and wish to remain must register within three months of arriving. There will also be a three-month grace period for applications at the end of the transition period. Irish citizens will be exempt from registration.

The proposal was reported in the press as significant concession by the Conservative British government, during a difficult week in which the Labour party backed a 'softer' Brexit that would keep the UK in a customs union. However, the EU criticised the proposal for not going far enough. It highlighted what it perceives to be a form of discrimination, namely that Europeans who come to the UK during the transition period would not have the same rights once it ends to bring their family to join them as Europeans already settled in Britain. Those newly arrived Europeans would have to pass a minimum income threshold test.

It is worth pausing to remember that, by simple operation of law, the UK will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. The topic of EU citizens' rights was initially supposed to be one of the least contentious in the Brexit talks. However, seemingly little progress has been made on this fundamentally important issue, despite an apparent breakthrough in December 2017. Businesses and individuals continue to live with a regrettable amount of uncertainty, as the UK and EU continue to shuffle towards trying to reach a deal.

Our advice to Europeans in the UK remains the same: while there continues to be significant uncertainty about how the dust will settle, you should engage with the current process, about which there is at least some knowledge of process and cost. Europeans and their family members in the UK are currently able to secure documentation evidencing their right to be in the UK (whether they have accrued settled status or not). They are able to do so well in advance of having to engage with the new registration system that will be put in place in due course, about which we currently know nothing.

Only last month we saw the Home Affairs Committee reporting that the Home Office is ill-equipped to deliver Brexit. While uncertainty and doubt continues, Europeans should try to put their minds at ease by using the channels that are currently available to them.

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