Implementing the Withdrawal Agreement: citizens’ rights Contents

4After 1 January 2021

115.Once the transition period ends, and free movement ends, we will be in new territory. As we adjust to this, it will be important to monitor and oversee the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the commitments made by both parties to the citizens and their families in the UK and the EU27.

116.The UK will leave the transition period at the end of 2020 and forge its future outside the EU with its own independent immigration policy. There will be changes on 1 January 2021, some quite fundamental, for citizens across Europe. For EU citizens in the UK they will still have six months left to apply for the Settled Status. This could potentially coincide with an increase in complex cases and the consequences of a digital system for demonstrating their status. For the UK nationals in the EU, thousands could be contemplating a new application process to acquire a status that protects their rights in the country which they thought was their home. The need for examining the implications of these changes has not diminished, in fact, it is likely to increase.

Ongoing monitoring and Parliamentary scrutiny

The Joint Committee and the Specialised Committee

117.The Withdrawal Agreement included the creation of the Joint Committee which has the role of overseeing the implementation of the WA. The Joint Committee has six Specialised Committees, one of which is specifically to address citizens’ rights matters. These committees started their work during the transition period and have met several times.182

118.An initial request from the British in Europe and the3million to have observer status at the Specialised Committee received non-committal responses from both the UK and EU,183 but they were allowed to attend the second meeting of the Specialised Committee held on 6 August 2020.184 As we commented earlier, this appears to have been the meeting where there was discussion on the common format identity residence document for UK nationals across the EU, and how UK nationals in the EU might be able to continue cross border working in the future relationship.185 Similarly, the Specialised Committee has provided a forum for the EU to make representation regarding EU citizens in the UK. It is the structure whereby the UK can make representation on behalf of UK nationals living in the EU. The Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights met for the third time on 8 October 2020.186

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

119.The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) was established by the UK Borders Act 2007, with a role to inspect the efficiency and effectiveness of the performance of functions relating to immigration, asylum, nationality and customs by the Home Secretary. The remit covers all activities of the immigration system in the UK. The ICIBI has carried out two inquiries into the EU Settlement Scheme, with reports published in May 2019 and February 2020.187 In his second report he acknowledged that the ICIBI’s detailed inspection process and reporting arrangements cannot keep pace with the Scheme in terms of published reports, and that he would continue to monitor and report and make recommendations, in line with his remit ahead of the creation of a new Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA).188

The Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA) and the European Commission

120.The Withdrawal Agreement includes the requirement for the UK to create an Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA) to monitor the UK’s implementation of the citizens’ rights parts of the Agreements. This mirrors the role of the European Commission on behalf of implementing citizens’ rights for UK nationals in EU Member States. The IMA will have authority to initiate its own inquiries and carry out inquiries in response to requests from the Secretary of State, Ministers of devolved areas, or complaints from individuals who fall within the scope of the Agreements. The IMA also has the power to intervene in legal proceedings and to apply for judicial review. The European Commission and IMA must report annually on the implementation and application of the citizens’ rights provisions in the WA, including the number and nature of complaints received. The IMA is expected to be fully operational from 31st December 2020 and is currently recruiting staff.189

121.We ask the Government to provide an update on progress for the Independent Monitoring Authority to be fully operational on 1 January 2021, and how it intends to communicate to EU citizens the Independent Monitoring Authority’s existence, its role and how it can support them. We expect the Independent Monitoring Authority to make its reports public and on its own terms.

122.Many of the matters we have discussed in this report relate to what needs to be done now, but others may either only arise or intensify after the transition period ends. There needs to be continued monitoring of EU citizens’ rights in the UK and effective oversight beyond 31 December 2020. That includes the Independent Monitoring Authority being accountable to Parliament.

123.As we have seen this year, the Joint Committee—with representatives from the UK Government and the European Commission—is a powerful and influential body. It, along with its specialised committees, will have an important role in how the citizens’ rights elements of the Withdrawal Agreement are implemented. Unfortunately, its internal working is not transparent. This makes it difficult to understand what it is being asked to decide on or the outcome of those decisions. We consider this to be wholly inadequate. There needs to be a better formal structure for Parliamentary scrutiny of the Joint Committee, and we intend to return to the question of its transparency in the future.

183 Q513

188 Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, An inspection of the EU Settlement Scheme (April 2019 to August 2019), February 2020

Published: 20 October 2020