There are about 3 million EU citizens living in the UK right now, and the Brexit vote has understandably become a major concern for them. So what will happen to their rights? There is a lot of confusion and there are no guarantees right now.
The current government refuses to give a guarantee that EU nationals will be allowed to stay after the UK officially leaves the European Union. The Conservative Junior Home Office minister James Brokenshire said that it would not be wise to guarantee any rights right now without a mutual agreement with Europe, regarding the 1.2 million UK citizens living in continental Europe. He said that they can only affirm that EU citizens are permitted to stay in the UK for now.
EU nationals could potentially lose all of their acquired rights, i.e. living and working in the UK without a visa, owning a business in the UK, owning property in the UK and access to public services such as the NHS.
Theresa May, the new Prime Minister, has so far said that she won’t guarantee anything, and that the fate of EU nationals living in the UK will depend on negotiations with Europe regarding the fate of UK nationals living elsewhere in Europe. These negotiations could take years, leaving EU nationals in the dark. She also stated that the EU concept of free movement could no longer exist in the UK.
Labour has condemned this position as being unfair and chaotic for all EU citizens living in the UK because now they cannot plan their lives until this is settled in the future. This could take a few years, possibly more.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is pushing for early talks with Europe regarding the status of EU nationals living in the UK and the status of UK nationals living in Europe. These talks would be held before any formal Article 50 negotiations regarding Britain’s leaving Europe. However, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker states that any informal discussions with Britain will not happen until after Britain officially triggers Article 50.
Mr. Hammond is confident that there will be a consensus allowing EU citizens to remain in the UK. He promises to raise the matter on July 17th 2016 when he meets his peers, all 27 EU Foreign Ministers. He will also seek reassurances regarding the fate of the 1.2 million UK citizens living in other EU countries. Mr. Hammond recognizes the importance and the contribution of EU migrants to the British economy.
According to some immigration experts, in the future, EU nationals might have to show additional proof of their right to remain in the UK. It is also possible that the tier 2 visa, an Australian-style points system, which already exists for non-EU migrants, might also be applied to all EU migrants, new and existing.
Nothing is certain now, and it will all depend on the Conservative’s new leadership and negotiations with Europe.
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