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- Right for EU citizens to leave the UK for long periods will be restricted post-Brexit. Two classes of EU citizens will be created in the UK. Right to bring over family members will be restricted. EU citizens will lose protection of the European Court of Justice.
LONDON – Theresa May on Monday released what she described as a “generous offer” to EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit. The plans, which will form part of the negotiations with the EU, were sold as offering Europeans living here rights which are “almost equivalent to British citizens”.
However, the plans as they stand do involve the loss of a number of existing rights for EU citizens. Here’s all the degradation of rights that will affect European citizens living in the UK after Brexit.
The right to leave
Under current freedom of movement rules EU citizens are able to move between any member state at will. The UK government has pledged to end this right once Britain leaves, replacing it with the right to earn “settled status” in the UK. Under this status, EU citizens who have been living in the UK for five years can apply for indefinite leave to remain. However, settled status is not the same as citizenship.
While UK citizens are free to work abroad, even for long periods and still retain their British citizenship, EU citizens with “settled status” are not. Under the new proposed rules anyone with settled status in the UK risks losing this status if they leave the country for two years or more. The government say exceptions may be made if they “have strong ties here” however the details of this have not yet been spelled out.
Two classes of EU citizens
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The government’s briefing paper distinguishes between two classes of EU citizens – those who arrive in the UK before Britain leaves the EU and those who arrive afterwards. Those who arrive before an as-yet-to-be agreed cut-off date will have the right to apply for settled status in the UK after living here continuously for five years.
However, those who arrive after the cut-off date will not. According to the government’s plans, those who arrive after the cut-off date will be allowed to stay for a “temporary period” but “should have no expectation of guaranteed settled status.”
The right to bring over family members
EU citizens living in the UK currently have the right to bring over family members to live here. That right will be either removed, or significantly watered down after Brexit. Under the proposed new rules family members of EU citizens who arrive in the UK before the Brexit cut-off date will be able to apply for settled status after five years living here.
However, those who wish to bring over family members after the cut-off date will have to meet a tougher set of criteria including a series of income thresholds for those bringing over partners or children. For non-EU citizens these thresholds are currently £18,600 for those bringing over a partner and an additional £3,800 for one child and £2,400 for each additional child.
This effective creation of two classes of EU citizens in the UK will be a sticking point in Brexit negotiations. “Any degradation of the rights linked to freedom of movement, including discrimination between EU citizens in their access to residency rights, before the date of withdrawal by the United Kingdom would be contrary to union law,” the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said on Monday.
Loss of protection from European courts
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EU citizens living in the UK currently have their rights protected by the European Court of Justice. However, Theresa May is committed to leaving the jurisdiction of the court after Brexit. This is likely to be a major point of disagreement in Brexit negotiations.
Claude Moraes MEP, the chair of the European parliament civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, said on Monday that the proposal to leave the court “threatens the rights of both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in other EU countries” and would “create greater uncertainty for both UK and EU citizens and take up limited negotiating time.”