EU citizens will still be allowed to come to live and work in UK after Brexit, Home Secretary reveals
EU citizens will still be allowed to come to the UK to live and work after Brexit as long as they register with the Home Office, Amber Rudd has announced.
The Home Secretary said that freedom of movement will officially end in March 2019 when Britain leaves the EU, but revealed plans that suggest the existing immigration regime will remain largely unchanged during the transitional period after Brexit.
Government sources conceded that the rules governing EU migrants coming to Britain during the transitional period “may look like a similar arrangement” to free movement.
It raised concerns among Eurosceptic MPs that the Government was not serious about bringing down net migration, with one warning that a registration scheme must not be used as a way of “keeping the existing system in place by another name”.
At a glance | EU freedom of movement rules
The European Union’s “citizens” rights” are intended to allow EU nationals to settle and work seamlessly in other countries of the bloc.
Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council defines these rights as follows:
For stays under three months, EU citizens need only a valid form of ID, such as a passport
For stays over three months, they must demonstrate that they have sufficient resources (employment, savings or pension) to not be a burden on the host nation’s social services. Authorities may require some sort of residence permit in order to access government services
For the right to permanent residence, EU nationals need to have resided in their host country for five uninterrupted years. They lose the right of residence if absent from the country for two years
Regardless of permanent residency rights, EU citizens may be expelled from the country for reasons of public policy, public safety or public health. These must not be on economic grounds, or otherwise discriminatory
These rights can also be withdrawn in the event for abuse - for example, marriages of convenience
Ms Rudd set out fresh details of her post-Brexit immigration plans in a letter to the Migration Advisory Committee, the independent body she has asked to report on the number and location of EU nationals working in each sector of the economy.
She told the committee’s chairman Professor Alan Manning that during the transition period there will be “a straightforward system for the registration and documentation of new arrivals”.
She added: “A registration system that enables EU citizens to demonstrate their right to live and work in the UK is the basic requirement to be able to operate any system of immigration control.”
The length of the implementation phase is part of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, but Cabinet ministers have suggested it will last anything from two to four years.
Ms Rudd said she wanted to “ensure there is no cliff-edge on the UK’s departure for employers or individuals”.
It was seen by some MPs as further evidence that the Government is moving towards the jobs-first Brexit favoured by the Chancellor Philip Hammond, rather than focusing on bringing down net migration.
The Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said: “What people voted for was to get back control over immigration numbers and that control also means reducing them. Just registering people doesn’t really do either of those.”
Mr Hollobone said the Home Office needed to spell out exactly how the registration system would work as he warned that it must not be used as a cover to extend free movement indefinitely.
He said: “So long as it is a shift away from one to the other and not just some means of keeping the existing system in place by another name.”
Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, said: "There is clearly a very big majority [in the Cabinet] supporting transitional arrangements and open borders continuing for several years to come. I think there is something going on here that I don’t like the look of one little bit.”
Until now, the Government has only said that EU citizens who have already lived here for five years will be allowed to stay, and that anyone who has been here less than five years will be allowed a “grace period” to complete five years residence if they arrived before a certain date.
That date has not yet been set as it is part of the negotiations with the EU. Significantly, Ms Rudd’s letter to Prof Manning contains no mention of a net migration target, or of the Government’s manifesto aim of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands.
After the UK leaves the EU, citizens from other member states will have to apply for immigration status in this country because freedom of movement will end and they will no longer be able to come and go unrestricted (Ireland will have other arrangements).
The Government will agree a cut-off date with the EU, after which any new EU citizens arriving in the UK may not be given "settled status".
Anyone from another EU nation living in the UK before the cut-off date will be entitled to claim settled status as long as they have lived in the country for five years continuously.
Settled status is essentially the same as indefinite leave to remain, which gives the holder the right to use UK public services and access benefits and education.
Family members of EU citizens with settled status will have the right to come to the UK and build up their five year residency in order to achieve the same status, even if they did not live in the country before the cut-off date - as long as they come before the UK leaves the union.
It also says nothing about how many EU citizens who register with the Home Office after Brexit are likely to be allowed to stay and how many might ultimately be sent home.
Ms Rudd wrote: “Our businesses, agriculture, public services, voluntary organisations and universities rely to a greater or lesser extent on migration for labour, skills and ideas. Britain is a tolerant country, open for business and will stay that way.”
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, expressed support for an “open” immigration system as he said it was “fantastic” for the economy.
Speaking at a press conference in Australia, he said: “I think there are things we could do to reduce some aspects of immigration whilst keeping a posture that is open and attractive to talent. I would be very, very surprised if any report says otherwise."