1.Once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, EU citizens will no longer be automatically entitled to live and work in the UK. This is because the right to free movement between European states is derived from EU law, to which the UK will no longer be subject. This change will affect all people who are here through exercise of the Treaty right to freedom of movement and who have not taken British citizenship or been granted indefinite leave to remain (as distinct from permanent residence under EU law), and will include citizens who have been resident in the UK for many years, and those who were born here and have never lived anywhere else.
2.The Government has proposed an EU Settlement Scheme to establish the immigration status of EU citizens legally residing in the UK when the UK leaves the EU. This would grant individuals rights of legal residence depending on their length of residency in the UK: with settled or pre-settled status, the individual would have rights to work, travel, use education and health services and to access public benefits which would be broadly similar to those they have thus far enjoyed. Unlike permanent residence, a status granted under the Settlement Scheme is not an automatic right: both settled and pre-settled status must be applied for by individual EU citizens and granted by the Government. Those who do not successfully access the Scheme and confirm their eligibility to remain may no longer have a legal right to live in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.
3.We held a short inquiry on this issue because the smooth and successful operation of the Settlement Scheme is vital to reassure UK-resident EU citizens that they will continue to be free to live and work here. Following the Windrush scandal—which has seen thousands of people from Commonwealth countries, who came to the UK after the Second World War, denied rights and threatened with deportation due to Home Office mishandling of their cases—it is also essential for public trust in the Home Office that it gets this scheme right. The prospect of a Windrush-style catastrophe happening to over three million EU citizens who have made the UK their home in good faith is deeply troubling.
4.We took evidence from individuals who have supported groups of EU citizens in applying to the Scheme, and from a range of experts and commentators on immigration and citizenship issues. We discussed this issue further with the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, and the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam KCB, when they appeared before us on 27 February 2019. We also benefited from a demonstration of the application process by Home Office officials.
5.The Settlement Scheme will affect all European nationals living in the UK, whether they are from a nation which is one of the constituent members of the European Union (excluding the UK and Ireland), the European Economic Area or Switzerland. The Government has announced that EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will be able to apply to the Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK. For consistency throughout this report we have generally referred to “EU” citizens, except where quoting or citing individuals or official guidance.
Published: 30 May 2019