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


Uncertainty and the need for early resolution

1.The result of the referendum and subsequent debate in the UK and across the EU have created a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty for EU citizens resident in the UK and for UK citizens in the EU. EU nationals in the UK did not have a vote in the referendum. They came to the UK legally and have contributed to the UK economically and culturally and enriched UK society. The vast majority have worked hard, paid their taxes, integrated, raised families and put down roots. It is difficult to see what more the UK could have asked of them. The result of the referendum, however, has made them very unsure of their future. Although the Government has said it wants EU citizens to be able to remain, the Committee notes that this has not offered sufficient reassurance that the rights and status that they have enjoyed will be guaranteed. (Paragraph 16)

2.A major concern for EU citizens in the UK is that they will not be able to continue to work in the UK in the future, and that their right to work will not be protected after the UK leaves the EU. (Paragraph 17)

3.Continuing access to healthcare, on the same terms as they can now, is clearly a concern for UK nationals, including those of retirement age, resident in Europe. The Government needs to set out whether it will seek to continue participation in EEA wide schemes that enable UK nationals to receive healthcare in EEA member states. (Paragraph 29)

4.In setting out its negotiating position the Government should seek to ensure that EU nationals already resident in the UK and UK nationals already resident in other EU countries do not lose any of the rights to healthcare they currently hold. (Paragraph 30)

5.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. (Paragraph 34)

The Government’s position

6.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. We commend their commitment to this outcome. This has not yet proved possible. This is regrettable and the impact it is having on several million EU citizens should be a matter of serious concern to all governments in the EU. (Paragraph 41)

7.EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU are aware that their fate is subject to the negotiations. They do not want to be used as bargaining chips, and the uncertainty they are having to live with is not acceptable. Notwithstanding the assurance given by the Home Secretary, we recommend that the UK should now make a unilateral decision to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. (Paragraph 45)

8.There appear to be differences between the prime negotiators, the UK Government and the EU Commission as to the sequencing of negotiations. It would be unconscionable for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU not to have clarity about their status for another two years. (Paragraph 49)

9.We commend efforts by the UK nationals living in other EU countries to put pressure on the respective governments where they live to resolve questions around their status as soon as possible. We do not believe the electorates of Europe will thank politicians in any country if the situation is allowed to continue for another two years. It is imperative that all parties to the negotiations put the resolution of the rights of all EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU as their first priority. (Paragraph 51)

Identifying and registering qualifying EU nationals

10.The current process by which EU nationals can apply for permanent residence using an 85 page form and requiring copious supporting evidence is too complex and onerous for clarifying the status of up to three million people. The Committee observes that the application process is disproportionately burdensome, and questions why it involves collection of information which goes far beyond what is required to prove residence over a 5-year period. (Paragraph 63)

11.We call on the Government, as a matter of urgency, to look to streamline the system. While there will always be complex cases that require detailed consideration, it should be possible to clarify the status of the vast majority of individuals simply using a localised and streamlined system as proposed by British Future. (Paragraph 64)

12.One simple way to streamline the process would be for the Government to use data it already holds on applicants rather than ask each individual applicant to go back over their personal records over many years to duplicate that information. We call on the Home Office and HMRC to set out what they are doing to share data to improve the process for EU nationals establishing their eligibility to remain in the UK once the UK leaves the EU, and how that will reduce the administrative burden for the applicant. (Paragraph 65)

13.It will be important to get this process of documentation completed speedily, as after the UK leaves the EU, employers will need to see proof of an individual EU citizen’s right to work in the UK. This would be needed to avoid what happens to some non-EU citizens applying for further leave in the UK whose employers dismiss them because they cannot show a currently valid visa, even though they have a legal right to carry on working while their application is being considered. (Paragraph 66)

14.The Government should state that access to the NHS is considered sufficient to fulfil the requirements for CSI, and that it will introduce legislation to that effect if necessary. (Paragraph 73)

15.The Government must not create or retain a system with unrealistic administrative and technical hurdles, so that a substantial proportion of applications are declared invalid or refused. To do so runs the risk of either directing a large number of individuals into an appeal mechanism, prolonging their anxiety and further draining Home Office resources, or leaving a number of individuals who fail in their application and decide to stay living and working illegally in the UK. (Paragraph 74)

16.Letters which reject applications for permanent residence should not be accompanied by the words “Prepare to leave the UK” unless there are grounds for removal because the applicant does not have a right to remain. (Paragraph 75)

17.Managing the permanent residency application process represents a considerable challenge for the Home Office, one that may affect its day to day work. It needs to be transparent about the necessary financial and human resources required and what it is doing to put them in place. The Government needs to be preparing now. (Paragraph 79)

18.The current process for consideration of permanent residency applications is not fit for purpose and, in the absence of any concrete resolution to relieve the anxiety felt by the estimated three million EU citizens resident in the UK, it is untenable to continue with the system as it stands. We recommend that the Government set out whether it intends the permanent residence system to be the basis for EU nationals to demonstrate their eligibility to reside in the UK once the UK leaves the EU. If so then it needs to set out as a matter of urgency, how it will reform the permanent residence application system. If not, then it needs to set out what an alternative system will involve and what will be expected of EU nationals to demonstrate their eligibility to reside in the UK once the UK leaves the EU. (Paragraph 80)

19.The Government needs to explain what form the certification will take to enable an EU national, who has established the right to remain in the UK under free movement, to continue to enjoy the right to remain, work and to rent accommodation, once the UK has left the EU. The Government needs to devise a process that is simple, accessible and relatively inexpensive for the EU national to go through to meet those requirements. (Paragraph 83)

20.EU citizens who have been living in the UK for five years at the point we leave the EU will already have a right to remain. The Government should make clear that these individuals will be entitled to permanent residence. (Paragraph 89)

21.The Government should clarify what the position will be for EU citizens who will not have been living in the UK for five years prior to the date that the UK leaves the EU so that they can qualify for the right to remain, having regard to their current rights under EU law. (Paragraph 90)

22.The Government will 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 announce what this date will be as soon as possible. (Paragraph 91)

23.The border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will present particular challenges in the applications from EU nationals living and working in the Irish border region. These individuals’ rights would not be protected by the operation of the Common Travel Area, so the UK Government should seek to ensure that they are protected. There are a number of tax and benefit related issues that will require specific attention affecting UK, Irish and EU nationals. (Paragraph 93)

24.The Government needs to set out what rights will continue for those EU nationals living in the UK as a spouse or child of a UK national. The Government needs to set out what the rules will be for EU nationals currently resident in the UK and who wish to bring family members to live with them, after the UK leaves the EU. (Paragraph 97)

25.The Home Office is not processing applications for permanent residence fast enough and is currently rejecting, for whatever reason, one third of those applications it is processing. This could potentially amount to one million people. The Government needs to set out what it proposes to do with large numbers of people who have not established permanent residence once the UK leaves the EU. If the Government plans to replace the permanent residence process with another system, then it must do so as soon as possible. Whatever system is established, it must respect the fundamental rights of applicants in accordance with our domestic and international obligations. (Paragraph 99)

A new immigration system

26.An abrupt reduction in the number of EU workers in the UK would cause disruption in a number of sectors. This cannot be the Government’s intention. The Government has made it clear that its priority is to control migration from the EU. We do not believe that necessarily means it will reduce net migration in the short-term. (Paragraph 111)

27.As part of a long-term strategy to reduce the UK economy’s dependence on EU migrant workers, 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. (Paragraph 112)

28.The Government has options for a new immigration system for EU nationals that ranges from an approximation to continued free movement to applying the current system for non-EEA migrants to the UK to EEA migrants. Introducing restrictions on migration to and from the EU will introduce complexity to the system, and a balance will need to be struck as to who takes on the administrative burden—the applicant, their employer, or the Home Office. (Paragraph 133)

29.There needs to be a reduction in uncertainty relating to possible changes to the immigration system as a result of the UK leaving the EU. 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 as the UK exits the EU. We urge the Government to publish its intended timetable for the next Immigration Bill as soon as possible. (Paragraph 134)

30.We think that 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. (Paragraph 135)

31.The Government should respond to the proposals from the devolved governments and from London, and must set out as speedily and fully as possible whether it is considering a geographic element to future immigration policy, and if so, for which parts of the UK. (Paragraph 136)

32.The Government must be prepared to set out its policy for the non-work aspects of immigration policy, including students, family reunion, and on EU spouses compared to non-EU spouses. (Paragraph 137)

33.A major consideration in designing the new immigration system will be its ability to earn public confidence. We welcome the Government’s enthusiasm to make sure any changes to the system for immigration of EU nationals into the UK and UK nationals working across the EU enjoys the confidence of all interested parties, including employers, trade unions, and the wider public. (Paragraph 138)

34.The Committee supports protecting the Common Travel Area and welcomes the Government’s commitment to it. (Paragraph 139)

3 March 2017