Global Alerts

European Union – UK Parliament Rejects Withdrawal Agreement

On January 15, 2019, the United Kingdom parliament voted overwhelmingly (by 432 votes to 202) against the withdrawal deal negotiated between the government and the EU. On January 16, the UK prime minister faces a no confidence vote. The government has three parliamentary working days (until January 21, 2019) to present a plan B to parliament for another vote.

While the article 50 process means that the UK will leave the EU on March 29, 2019, with or without a ratified deal, there are several ways that no-deal Brexit may be averted before then:

  • A UK government request for an extension of the article 50 period may be approved by the EU, for example in order to hold a general election, or a second referendum to ratify the withdrawal agreement;
  • Parliament may approve a different withdrawal agreement, which would however also need to be acceptable to the EU (the UK government would probably have to drop some of its “red lines” to achieve this);
  • The government may unilaterally revoke article 50, effectively cancelling Brexit.

Orderly Brexit

If the deal is eventually ratified:

  • Free movement will continue until the end of the transition period (December 31, 2020 unless extended);
  • All EU citizens in the UK before this date will have until June 30, 2021 to register, through the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • Family members in a relationship with the EU citizen before the end of the transition period will be able to join those with settled status at any future date;
  • The rights of UK nationals resident in the EU before the end of the transition period will be similarly protected;
  • New immigration rules, applying to EU nationals arriving after transition, should come into effect by January 2021 (the government’s proposal is analyzed in detail here).

Disorderly Brexit

EU Citizens in the UK

In a no-deal Brexit scenario, with no transition period, the EU Settlement Scheme will still operate but the cut-off dates will be brought forward.

  • Only EU citizens already in the UK by Brexit day (i.e. March 29, 2019) will qualify, and they will have to apply by December 31, 2020;
  • Family members in a relationship with the EU citizen before Brexit day will be able to join those with settled status until March 29, 2022.

The new immigration rules are unlikely to be ready for implementation by March 29, 2019. Section 2 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 states that “EU-derived domestic legislation as it has effect in domestic law immediately before exit day, continues to have effect in domestic law on and after exit day.” This means the UK would unilaterally grant EU citizens arriving after Brexit largely similar rights as entrants before Brexit, until new immigration rules take effect.

UK Nationals in the EU

It is expected that UK nationals resident in EU member states would be given a chance to register to stay. EU member states are in the process of establishing emergency no-deal Brexit plans. So far, no member state has proposed granting British nationals arriving after Brexit the same rights as those arriving before Brexit. Note that, after Brexit, a residence status in one-member state will not provide work or residence rights in any other member state.

The following are details of measures already proposed by member states – details will be updated as plans are announced and clarified.

France has already passed legislation enabling it to protect the rights of UK nationals resident there by Brexit day, who will have to register during a transition period. The details of the rights on offer are contingent on a reciprocal offer from the UK.

Germany: The authorities in Berlin have introduced an online registration system for UK national residents, who will have until June 30, 2019 to register in the event of a no deal Brexit.

Netherlands: If no withdrawal agreement is reached, the Netherlands will introduce a transition period from March 29, 2019 until July 1, 2020. Before March 29, 2019, the Dutch Immigration Service (IND) will send all UK citizens and their non-EU family members living in the Netherlands a letter which will serve as their temporary residence permit during this transition period. After this transition period, UK nationals and their family members who wish to stay, work, study in the Netherlands will require a residence permit, which they can obtain if they meet the same residence requirements that apply to EU citizens. The IND will send invitation letters to apply for a residence permit no later than April 1, 2020.

Italy: The Italian government has announced that it is preparing legislation that will allow British citizens residing legally in Italy to remain resident in the event of a no-deal Brexit. British citizens registered as residents at their local registry office (‘anagrafe’) at their town hall (‘commune’) by March 29, 2019 will be granted the rights and enough time to apply for the long-term resident status as per EU Directive 2003/109/EC.

Spain: The Spanish government has drafted contingency plans to allow UK nationals to maintain their rights and to change their status as EU citizens to a legal residency status under Spanish law, and has set up an information site.

Poland: On January 11, 2019, the Polish government announced draft legislation including a one-year transition period (i.e., until March 30, 2019) to allow UK nationals and their family members to secure their residence status. Temporary residence permits will be issued for a period of three years under the same conditions as for all third-country nationals. Also, fingerprints of all applicants will have to be submitted. Those who, on the day of submission, have already been in Poland for the last five years, will be able to apply for a permanent residence permit.

Czech Republic: The Czech government is proposing a 21-month transition period to allow for residence registration.

Actions Items

  • Employers who may be affected by Brexit are encouraged to contact their immigration specialist for case-specific advice.

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