The UK and EU are agreed that safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU post-Brexit is a first priority in the Article 50 negotiations. The Government has now published its proposals. The Government intends to introduce settled status for qualifying EU citizens who are resident in the UK before the UK's exit.

To qualify, EU citizens must have:

  • been resident in the UK before an as yet unspecified cut-off date (likely to be between 29 March 2017, when the UK gave notice under Article 50, and the date of Brexit); and
  • completed a period of 5 years' continuous residence in the UK at the time they apply.

Once an EU citizen has applied for and been granted settled status, they will be free to:

  • reside in any capacity and undertake any lawful activity;
  • access public funds and services; and
  • apply for British citizenship.

The proposals are intended to avoid a cliff-edge and have in effect two grace periods. EU citizens who arrived in the UK and became resident before the cut-off date but who do not yet have 5 years' continuous residence can apply for temporary status to remain resident and, once they have achieved 5 years, apply for settled status at that point. Those who arrive after the cut-off date but before Brexit will be allowed to remain for an as yet undetermined period of time (expected to last "up to two years") under a blanket permission. This will allow time for those who want to remain in the UK after the end of that period to make individual applications for permission to remain.

The UK's proposals are in the "expectation" that the EU will offer reciprocal treatment for UK nationals resident in the EU27 and a response to the EU's position paper published on 12 June.

Although we now have more clarity about the respective opening positions, there are a number of points that are still up for grabs, including the cut-off date and whether the arrangements will be enforced by the CJEU or through the UK judicial system (as the Government would prefer).