The Government’s negotiating objectives: the rights of UK and EU citizens

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details (2016-17) HC1071
Publication Date 05/03/2017
Content Type

Report findings

All parties to the negotiations must put the resolution of the rights of all EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU as their first priority. It would be unconscionable, the committee believes, for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU not to have clarity about their status for another two years. The Government has made it clear it wants an early agreement to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK and of UK nationals living in other member states. The Committee commends its commitment to this outcome. It is regrettable that this has not yet proved possible.

+ Healthcare for UK nationals in the EU
Continuing access to healthcare, on the same terms as they can now, is a particular concern for UK nationals resident in the rest of Europe. In setting out its negotiating position the Government should seek to ensure that EU nationals here and nationals elsewhere in the EU do not lose any of the rights to healthcare they currently hold.

+ Pensions for UK nationals in the EU
The Government should seek the continuation of existing reciprocal arrangements for pension uprating for UK citizens living in other EU member states and for EU citizens living in the UK. The Government also needs to clarify whether it will seek to continue to cooperate on EU-wide mechanisms to enable pension contributions in different Member States to be aggregated.

+ EU nationals in the UK
A major concern for EU citizens in the UK is that their right to remain and work in the UK will not be protected after the UK leaves the EU. The UK does not have a comprehensive database of who is here so the first task for the Government will be to work out how to identify the estimated three million EU citizens here who rely upon free movement as a basis for their right to remain. Ministers will also need to set a cut-off date for EU citizens arriving in the UK. Those who arrive before this date should retain the right to qualify for permanent residence after they have been here for five years. The Government should decide and announce a date as soon as possible.

+ Permanent residence system for EU nationals
The current process by which EU nationals can apply for permanent residence after having lived in the UK for five years is not fit for purpose, the report concludes. EU nationals currently have to fill in an 85 page form that is too complex and onerous to be used to clarify the status of up to three million people, the MPs warn. The Committee is calling on the Government to streamline the system as a matter of urgency if it intends the permanent residence system to be the basis for enabling EU to stay in the UK after Brexit.

+ Immigration after Brexit
The report argues there could be benefit in the UK Government indicating in the negotiations that it is willing to consider preferential access for EU citizens in its new immigration policy. An abrupt reduction in the number of EU workers in the UK would cause disruption in a number of sectors. The Government has made it clear that its priority is to control migration from the EU; however it will not necessarily reduce net migration in the short-term.

The Government needs to take steps to train, or further incentivise training, to ensure that skilled workers are available to fill jobs in sectors currently featuring a large number of EU nationals.
Uncertainty regarding possible changes to the immigration system after Brexit need to be reduced. The Government should set out how it will establish a new system for immigration to be in place within two years of triggering Article 50 and what the rules for EU migrants will be once free movement ends. The Government should also respond to the proposals from the devolved governments and from London for geographic work visas, which would allow EU citizens to work in particular parts of the UK, and must set out as speedily and fully as possible whether it is considering such a geographic element to future immigration policy, and if so, for which parts of the UK.The United Kingdom Government should now make a unilateral decision to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, the cross-party Exiting the European Union Committee unanimously agreed in a report The Government's negotiating objectives: the rights of UK and EU citizens published on the 5 March 2017.

The MPs also called on the Government to seek to ensure that UK nationals already resident in other EU countries – and EU citizens already living here – did not lose their rights to healthcare and pensions after Brexit.

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Related Links
ESO: Background information: Home Office rule change adds to febrile atmosphere for EU nationals in Britain
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union
ESO: Background information: European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill: Government vows to overturn EU citizens vote following Lords defeat
The Conversation, 10.02.17: Four ways Britain could guarantee the right to remain for EU citizens after Brexit
UK: Parliament: House of Commons: Committees: Exiting the European Union Committee: News, 05.03.17: Government must act now to safeguard rights of EU citizens in UK
The Guardian, 04.03.17: Leading Brexiters urge May to guarantee EU citizens right to remain in UK
BBC News, 05.03.17: Ministers urged to protect rights of EU citizens in UK
ESO: Background information: The human rights implications of Brexit
ESO: Find further information in ESO on this topic*%20residency%20rights%20&searchOption=all

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