EU Nationals and Brexit

08 Jul 2016

During the last couple of weeks we’ve become familiar with Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon and aficionado’s will have dusted off Articles 216 – 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. Then we absorbed the maxim to keep calm and carry on; or we did until Monday when the Home Secretary and the Minister for Immigration threw us a curved ball. They declined to confirm that EU nationals working and living in the UK will have their current status respected. These people are now unwitting and probably unwilling pawns in a game of inter-continental chicken and I’ve lost count of the number of telephone calls I’ve received from worried Europeans working over here and their HR Business Partners. Yesterday the House of Commons resolved by 245 votes to 2 to ask the government to think again but that vote’s not binding.

Practical guidance depends on each individuals circumstances and aspirations but there are at least three options to consider. They might apply for a registration certificate, a permanent residence card or for naturalisation as a British citizen, in each case assuming of course they meet the eligibility criteria.

Registration certificates and residence cards are not mandatory for the exercise of EU treaty rights in this country and won’t necessarily guarantee anything. However they may serve as a useful fixed point in an uncertain world by recording an existing right and the date from which it runs. This may give the holder some comfort and it might just conceivably help if the government of the day has to consider emergency interim arrangements to manage an (or should it be the?) influx of EU nationals entering the country ahead of our departure. Further, a permanent residence card is required before an EU migrant applies for British citizenship.

British citizenship should provide complete insulation from turmoil in the immigration rules but anyone taking this option ought first to consider the impact on his/her existing citizenship. Some States don’t permit dual nationality and others may review their previous tolerance in the face of difficult negotiations between the EU and the UK.

We’re in a period of uncertainty but Trethowans Employment and Immigration team stands ready to help with practical advice.