The Speaker
Monday, 20 May 2024 – 22:27

An insight into the future of EU citizens’ rights in the UK

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

The rights of the EU citizens have not been alleviated by the Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement of the Brexit draft agreement on 15 November. Despite drawing certain rules that will be leading the divorce with the rest of the European community, the section dedicated for the EU residents in the UK remains very vague and ambiguous. Utmost attention is paid to the nationals who have already resided and lived in the country and, yet, little concern is given to new incomers in the UK after the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

The PM Cabinet have introduced two different paths for the EU citizens: before and after transition period. The draft agreement confirms residency status of all European nationals, their family members and partners. It affirms that the working rights will remain in place – whoever has pursued economic activity in the country before 2020 will be able to endure doing so. As a result, the EU citizens will uphold the equal treatment in healthcare, pensions and social security. The continuity of residence will neither be interrupted, meaning that the years that have been lived until the end of transition will not be nullified. This will allow everybody to pursue a permanent residency status.

This should certainly cool down emotions amongst the EU nationals in the former Eastern bloc, predominantly troubled with the UK divorce with the Brussels. Central and Eastern Europeans (excluding Estonians) constitute roughly 60% of over three million EU population in the UK. Since, on average, there are almost 230 thousand nationals per country, including Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, a lot is at stake. To compare, the remaining EU countries contribute to just over 80 thousand nationals per state.  

As a matter of fact, the number of the EU residents in the UK differs dramatically, with the Polish being the largest national minority with the number of approximately 900 thousand living in the country. Second to follow is Romania with 2.5 times fewer nationals reaching 370 thousand.

Theresa May and her draft agreement also confirms the right of entry with a valid document, however, within next five years after the date of the end of transition a document with biometric and chip information will be required instead to enter the country.

It also predicts the necessity to apply for residency status before the end of the transition period in circumstances that are not explicitly explained in the draft. Additional application documents might be required, in particular, for students and economically inactive persons.

Since all rights are to be protected for the EU citizens in the UK, what does the new decade in the twenty-first century hold in terms of immigration to the UK? It remains highly unclear.

There will be probable restrictions in the right of residence by the UK government, and the right of entry in the UK in search of work activities will be subject to national legislation. On top of that, the country will not be obliged to provide entitlement to social assistance, prior to the attainment of permanent residency. If this was not enough, the state will not be bound to grant maintenance aid for studies, or any vocational training, in the form of student grants and loans. In other words, economically inactive EU citizens along with EU students will have to demonstrate that they possess sufficient financial resources, according to the Brexit draft agreement, in order: “not to become a burden on the social assistance system.” Sickness insurance cover will also be required. 

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