Whilst Brexit continues to produce a myriad of talking points, one of the most contentious remains the rights of EU citizens and the extent of freedom of movement once the UK has finally left the union.
Of course, much depends on how the UK eventually leaves the European Union, with the growing prospect of a no-deal Brexit potentially restricting the rights of EU citizens who want to live and work in the UK.
At the same time, a disorderly exit without a withdrawal agreement will also affect the reunification of EU families in the UK, and this is a huge concern for citizens. We’ll explore this further below, whilst asking how EU residents should look to protect themselves going forward.
How Will a No-Deal Brexit Impact on EU Resident Rights?
Since the EU referendum result was announced in June 2016, several EU member states have moved to shore up the rights of British residents living in the Union.
However, the UK was initially loath to follow suit, with then-trade minister Liam Fox claiming that EU citizen rights was one of the UK’s key cards in the ongoing negotiations.
Whilst both parties eventually agreed to uphold the existing rights of citizens living in the UK and the EU as part of Theresa May’s ill-fated withdrawal agreement, however, the rejection of this bill and the increasing prospect of a no-deal Brexit is creating a scenario where the rights of residents may not benefit from comprehensive protections.
The situation has been complicated by Priti Patel’s assertion that freedom of movement between the UK and the EU would end once the former have left the Union.
So, although the rights of existing EU residents may not be impacted post-Brexit as a result of this policy, there remains a considerable degree of ambiguity and uncertainty that most commentators have labelled unacceptable.
What About the Reunification of EU Families in the UK Post-Brexit?
The issue revolving the reunification of EU families in the UK is arguably even more complex in the event of a no-deal Brexit, particularly as Britain already has relatively strict laws in place pertaining to this practice.
The harshness of these laws was borne out recently by the experience of Dutch national Monique Hawkins. Whilst she was eventually granted UK citizenship after having her initial application rejected, it was revealed that she may have relinquished several rights conferred to here under the EU’s freedom of movement laws.
More specifically, Ms. Hawkins may now be subject to the UK’s family reunification laws, which are unique in that they require applicants to earn at least £18,600 per annum before they can bring an EU spouse to the country. The spouse in question must also pass an English language test, whilst the minimum income requirement can also increase based on the number of dependents.
At present, EU law provides a buffer against these laws, by guaranteeing additional rights to EU citizens in such instances. However, this would be lost in the event of a no-deal Brexit, leaving families at the mercy of harsh laws that may become even more stringent after October 31st.
This remains the scheduled date of departure for the EU, so now is the ideal time to organise your affairs and seek legal council from immigration lawyers such as Withers if you’re likely to be affected by any family reunification law changes.
Whilst it’s hard to determine the precise impact of a no-deal Brexit at this time, it’s important to make some initial preparations and help you to protect you and your family going forward.