EU citizens and their family living in the UK on 29 March 2019 will be welcome to stay, even in a no-deal situation, but the UK Government cannot guarantee the same for UK nationals living in the EU.
A policy paper from the Department for Exiting the European Union, published today, said: “To remove any ambiguity about their future, the UK Government wants to reassure EU citizens and their family members living in the UK that they are welcome to stay in the UK in the unlikely event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.”
However, it said the UK could not act unilaterally, without the agreement of the other countries, to protect the rights of UK nationals in the EU.
The paper, “Citizens’ Rights – EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU,” only “calls upon” the EU and its members to reassure UK nationals living in the EU in a similar way in case of no-deal Brexit.
EU citizens’ rights in the UK in no-deal Brexit
The Brexit paper on citizens’ rights says if no Brexit deal is secured by March 2019, EU citizens and family living in the UK will have to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme by 31 December 2020 to secure their status in UK law.
A new UK immigration system would be enacted from 1 January 2021.
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The paper says EU citizens given settled status under the scheme could be joined by “existing close family members” until 29 March 2022, including children, spouses and partners, parents and grandparents.
The relationship would need to have existed before 29 March 2019, the date at which the UK leaves the EU.
Relatives of EU citizens with settled status, with relationships established after Brexit, would still have the right to move to the UK until 31 December 2020.
UK nationals’ rights in the EU in no-deal Brexit
The Brexit paper admits “uncertainty” for UK nationals living in the EU if no Brexit deal is reached.
It claims: “The Withdrawal Agreement is the only way the UK Government can guarantee the rights of the one million UK nationals living in the EU.”
It says the Withdrawal Agreement deal was built on a reciprocal agreement with the EU – protecting UK nationals’ rights in the EU, for the protection of EU citizens’ rights in the UK.
The paper then asks EU countries to give details of if and how rights would be protected if there is no deal in March 2019.
For example, UK state pensions would still be available for UK nationals living in the EU, if EU states agreed to provide the same for their citizens in the UK.
But the paper could not talk about whether UK nationals living in the EU would have the right to bring EU and non-EU citizen family members back into the UK, with the same rights as UK citizens.