Citizens’ Rights Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction


1.The Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (the Withdrawal Agreement or the Agreement), setting out the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, was signed by the  Parties on 24 January 2020.1 The UK Parliament had previously enacted the domestic legislation necessary to give effect to the Agreement by passing the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 on 23 January 2020. The Agreement was then ratified on 30 January 2020 and came into force on 31 January, the day the UK left the European Union.

2.The Agreement contains a range of provisions concerning the post-Brexit UK-EU relationship, including Articles on citizens’ rights in Part Two.2 Those citizens covered by the Agreement, and their family members, are granted residency rights and the right to work. The Agreement also grants them rights in areas such as social security and healthcare. The UK and the 27 EU Member States may decide whether they require EU/UK citizens to apply for their new residency status (known as a ‘constitutive’ system), or simply register (known as a ‘declaratory’ system).

3.The Withdrawal Agreement included provision for a transition period, whereby free movement of people would continue from 1 February to 31 December 2020.3 From the end of that period, the free movement of people between the UK and EU Member States ceased. UK citizens living in the EU also lost their right to move freely from their host state to another EU Member State (onward free movement rights.)4

4.The UK also signed an EEA/EFTA Separation Agreement with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, and a separate Citizens’ Rights Agreement with Switzerland, protecting the rights of citizens of these countries living in the UK and of UK citizens living in these countries.5 These provisions broadly mirror the provisions agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement.6

5.The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), signed between the UK and the EU on 24 December 2020, reaffirms the parties’ obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. The TCA also includes provisions with a potential impact on UK and EU citizens, such as on recognition of professional qualifications, business mobility, social security co-ordination and visa-free travel.7 It does not, though, contain comprehensive arrangements to facilitate UK-EU movement of people in the future.

This inquiry

6.This report is based on an inquiry undertaken by the European Affairs Committee, whose Members are listed in Appendix 1, between May 2021 to June 2021.

7.The Committee’s inquiry involved two oral evidence sessions with experts and campaign groups on 25 May 2021; an oral evidence session with the relevant Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on 22 June 2021; and 12 written evidence submissions. We are grateful to all our witnesses, who are listed in Appendix 2.

8.In accordance with the Committee’s function to scrutinise Government policy, the inquiry focused on the implementation of the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme, including the effect of its deadline on applicants, particularly vulnerable persons. The inquiry also took evidence on the issues faced by UK citizens under both declaratory and constitutive systems operated by EU Member States.

9.The report is divided into three main chapters, firstly setting out the citizens’ rights provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement and then analysing the systems the UK and EU Member States have put in place to meet their obligations under those provisions.

1 Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (19 October 2019): [accessed 14 July 2021]

2 Ibid., Articles 9–39

3 Ibid., Article 126. All EU law applied to the UK, including the principles governing the free movement of persons, until the transition period expired on 31 December 2020.

4 The Citizens’ Rights provisions contained in the Withdrawal Agreement are founded upon the principles set out in EU Directive 2004/58 dealing with the rights of EU citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the Member States. The Withdrawal Agreement does not cover the right to move itself but does address the right to reside, to work, and access to social security rights.

5 Department for Exiting the European Union, EEA EFTA Agreement and Explainer (20 December 2018): [accessed 14 July 2021]

6 This report sometimes makes reference to EEA nationals, where they are living in the UK, as they are covered by the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme.

7 Some professional qualifications for EU citizens in the UK (and UK citizens in the EU) are covered in the Withdrawal Agreement, Article 27.

© Parliamentary copyright 2021