UK and EU citizens' rights after Brexit are far from a done deal
UK citizens living in EU countries and EU citizens in the UK cannot be left in the dark, say MPs on the Exiting the European Union Committee
Although the former Brexit Secretary and Michel Barnier said in March 2018 that the chapter of the draft Withdrawal Agreement on citizens' rights had been finalised, substantial issues remain unresolved for British citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK.
21 MPs from the Exiting the European Union Committee, from different political parties and different sides of the EU Referendum, have heard from a range of people, and have recommended several key actions that the Government must now take.
"Whatever happens with the negotiations, we urge all Governments to make it clear to all EU citizens who have made somewhere else their home, that they can stay."
- Hilary Benn MP, Committee Chair
Here are our recommendations for the Government to ensure the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.
1. The UK needs to secure ongoing free movement for UK citizens currently resident in the EU
The Committee says UK citizens living in other EU countries cannot be left in the dark as to how to secure their rights after Brexit.
There are associated rights that will fall alongside the loss of free movement. These include the ability of some professionals to operate in more than one Member State, their ability to offer cross border services and the right to open a business in another Member State.
The Committee calls in particular for the Government to press for an agreement on ongoing free movement within the EU27 for UK citizens currently resident in the EU.
2. We want more clarity on the EU27's preparations
for regularising status
for these UK citizens
The EU's position on EU citizens in the UK has been to insist on no diminution of their rights.
The Committee calls for urgent clarification from the EU27 on the preparations that they are making to regularise the status of UK citizens in each Member State.
Continued rights of free movement, other associated rights, provisions for registration of UK citizens, recognition of professional qualifications, voting rights and whether UK citizens can continue with or apply for dual nationality are all other causes for concern.
In the event of 'no deal', the Committee calls on the UK and the individual Member States to make public statements to assure all EU and UK citizens living on their territory that they will safeguard their rights.
3. The Government needs to reach out to EU citizens in the UK and widely communicate the process to secure legal settled status
The UK Government has said it wants EU citizens to stay in the UK and their right to remain will come through the Home Secretary's scheme of "settled status".
The timetable and deadlines for the roll-out of the scheme – expected to process three million applications - are challenging and ensuring its success will require a considerable public information scheme.
The Committee calls for the process for EU citizens in the UK to get settled status to be cost-free provided agreement is secured that UK citizens in the EU will not incur a charge to do the same.
For the Irish in Britain, the Government should set out detailed guidance to clarify why they might choose to apply for Settled Status and any applications should be free.
The UK Government should also explain clearly what will happen to EU citizens who fail to apply for settled status in the UK after the transition and grace periods end.
4. If citizens get settled status (the right to remain), they should be issued with a physical document
The digital application process proposed by the Home Office risks creating barriers for applicants and confusion among those required to make the checks, including potential landlords and employers.
Once applications are processed, evidence to the inquiry led the Committee to recommend that a physical document such as a residency card should be issued, rather than relying on a digital format, as this would provide more reassurance and familiarity and could be more readily shown to employers and potential landlords.
The Government has two months to respond to our report. To read more depth and detail about our recommendations, read the report on The progress of the UK's negotiations on EU withdrawal – the rights of UK and EU citizens or see more on our website.
If you're interested in the work of the Committee, find out more about their other inquiries.