Brexit - UK Votes to Leave EU

On June 23, 2016, the UK public voted in a non-binding referendum to leave the EU - an historic event that will have far-reaching consequences for, amongst other things, UK immigration.  

Since the results of this EU referendum were announced, we have been inundated with queries from European nationals concerned about their status in the UK.  Understandably, many clients are eager to apply for Permanent Residence as a matter of urgency to ensure that their position in the UK is protected.  At this moment in time, it is unclear what will become of EU nationals who have been exercising their Treaty Rights in the UK.  The first reading of the EU Citizens Resident in the UK Bill took place in the House of Lords on 12 July 2016 and details have yet to be publicised.  So far the information available regarding the Bill is that it is a Private Member’s Bill and so the details are likely to remain unpublished until close to the second reading which is scheduled for 21 October 2016.  At the moment all we know is that it is ‘A Bill to grant EU citizens the right to stay resident in the UK following the UK’s withdrawal from membership of the European Union; and for connected purposes.’

What can we expect?  

There should be no immediate changes to the status of EU nationals residing in the UK.  Nothing will happen until Article 50 has been invoked and the formal procedure under way.  Initially, it was expected that this would not take place until after the Conservative party conference in October at which the new Prime Minister would be appointed, however this may happen sooner than originally anticipated now that Theresa May has taken occupancy of number ten.

Article 50 is important as this is the first legal step in the UK’s exit from the EU.  It is by invoking this that the UK will be giving their formal notice to withdraw from the EU and begin the exit negotiations with the remaining member states.  This is a process that could take up to two years.  Once Article 50 is invoked, there is no going back.

Immigration and the status of EU nationals resident in the UK and British nationals residing elsewhere in the EU will undoubtedly form an important part of the negotiations.  Theresa May has indicated that she would like to secure the rights of EU nationals in the UK but would expect some form of reciprocal arrangement from the remaining Member States for British nationals living in the EU.

Until the negotiations take place and details of the Bill made public, it really is a bit of a guessing game but there is no need to panic.  Nothing will change overnight and the worst case scenario would undoubtedly involve some form of transitional arrangements to allow anyone affected to make any necessary applications or bring themselves in line with the new requirements, whatever these may be.  The Bill mentioned above, however suggests that plans are already being drawn up to ensure that EU nationals in the UK will remain protected.

Our advice to EU national clients has been to ensure that they apply for permanent residence documentation if they are eligible to do so or as soon as they become eligible.  Once they have held this for one year, they will be able to apply for British nationality thus preserving their status in the UK and the EU as this will not require them to give up their original nationality.

In the meantime, we would ask people not to panic and, if anyone has any immediate concerns, we would be happy to discuss these and offer personal advice based on individual circumstances.