A joint report has been published by the UK Government and the European Commission setting out the progress of the first phase of the Brexit negotiations.
The current report indicates that an agreement 'in principle' has been reached on three key areas: protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU; a framework for addressing the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and the financial settlement.
Whilst nothing is final at this stage, the report will nevertheless be of some comfort to employers in the UK who are understandably concerned about the stability of their workforce and also to EU citizens living and working in the UK about their status post Brexit.
The report suggests that, until the 29 March 2019 ('Brexit day') EU citizens will continue to have the right of free movement. Therefore, any EU citizen who arrives in the UK before Brexit day should have the right to stay.
EU citizens in the UK post Brexit day, should continue to have equal access to social security, health care, education and employment.
What does this mean for UK employers?
In essence, the report indicates that EU citizens currently in the UK will be able to remain here until such time as they can obtain a permanent status document.
This is good news for employers, as it would mean existing EU employees will be able to stay in the UK and continue working beyond Brexit day.
What does this mean for EU citizens living and working in the UK?
The report also provides greater certainty for EU citizens living in the U.K. about their likely current and future rights and should help them to plan accordingly.
Based on the current joint report:
- EU citizens will need to apply for either settled status or a temporary residence permit. This means:
- Any EU citizen who has been in the UK for 5 continuous years' at the point that the UK leaves the EU will be eligible to apply for settled status which will entitle them to remain in the UK indefinitely;
- Any EU citizen who has been in the UK for less than 5 years on Brexit day will be able to remain in the UK until they have reached the 5 year threshold, enabling them to qualify for settled status. They will be required to apply for a temporary residence permit.
- EU citizens who already have a permanent residence document will be required to have this converted into a new settled status document for free, subject to additional checks.
- If the EU national is exercising rights in the UK on Brexit day, their family members (both EU and non-EU family members) will be able to join them provided certain conditions are met. For partners/spouses this includes demonstrating that the couple is in a durable relationship.
- Once an EU citizen has obtained settled status, they will be able to leave the UK for up to 5 years without losing their settled status - this is more than double the time currently allowed under EU law.
- The application process to apply for residence permits and settled status documents will open prior to 29 March 2019 and will be open throughout a two year transitional period starting from Brexit day.
Please note that this article is based on the joint report dated 8th December 2017 and is not confirmation of the final legal position with regards to Brexit. The full report can be read here.