Europeans – rights after Brexit
The Home Office has consistently stated that EEA nationals will be able to fully take advantage of European free movement law until Brexit actually happens, which may be on some date in early 2019 or thereabouts.
This is a matter which worries some British people as well as Europeans. Some property companies which deal with property in Spain are reporting a surge of activity from potential British buyers. Those who aspire to retire or relocate to Spain also want to get their lives sorted out before Brexit happens.
But, in any event, things may not be quite so simple. The Government has now published a policy paper which provides at least some detail of Government thinking. This is against the background that – as even the Prime Minister herself has told the House of Commons – Europeans have become an “an integral part of the economic and cultural fabric” of this country. In other words, it is not going to be possible to tell all the Europeans to just go home when Brexit happens.
The policy paper refers to a “specified date”, and the way in which it will work seems to be like this. The specified date will be a date before the actual Brexit date. Europeans who come to the UK to exercise Treaty rights before the specified date will be in a stronger position regarding permanent residence (ie settlement): they will be able to complete the required five-year period for permanent residence and then apply for it.
But those Europeans who come to the UK after the specified date will apparently face a more restrictive regime and will not be able to acquire settlement so easily.
And after Brexit Europeans will no longer have free movement rights in the UK. They will face a stricter regime, presumably something similar to what non-EEA migrants face at the moment. There has been much talk of a “points-based system”, which has become a kind of official mantra. But all “points-based system” means is a system based on points scoring, not on some other scheme or principle. Points-based systems are not intrinsically stricter or more onerous than other types of scheme (although the one we have at the moment is certainly doing its best to be as onerous as possible). It is still all rather vague at the moment.
And of course some other, stricter, regime will also exist for non-EEA family members: something which is more akin to the current requirements under the UK family immigration rules.
It is without doubt the case that non-EEA family members of Europeans exercising Treaty rights in the UK currently face a very liberal regime under European free movement rules in comparison with those who face the UK immigration rules. This is one of the things that Brexiteers emphasised was – as they saw it – unfair about the EU scheme. European free movement rules do not permit any requirement for English language proficiency and in most cases neither do they contain any requirement for minimum earnings or wealth.
But after Brexit this is likely to change, and non-EEA family members of Europeans who want to come to come to the UK to join their European family members are likely to have to meet such requirements.
Anyway, we will keep our eyes open for the crucial “cut-off date”. This will give us some more solid idea of where we stand with Brexit.