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'Brexit' - latest developments

Brexit will mean changes to the rights of EU nationals already living in the UK and for new arrivals from the EU after the UK leaves. So far, the main changes have been in clarifying the status of EU nationals already in the UK, although details of their entitlements to housing and benefits after 29 March 2019 are still unclear. Revised guidance will appear on the site as regulations change - and the main points will be included on this page.

Proposed arrangements for European nationals in the UK

The biggest issue is still the future of EU nationals already resident in the UK. This was covered in detail in the agreement reached in December 2017, although this is dependent on the UK reaching a 'deal' with the EU before the end of March 2019. The main points are:

  • People who arrive by 29 March 2019 and have been continuously and lawfully living in the UK for 5 years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’.
  • People who arrive by 29 March 2019, but will not have been here lawfully for 5 years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the 5-year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
  • Family members who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK by 29 March 2019 will also be able to apply for settled status after 5 years in the UK.

Getting settled status

The Home Office ‘settlement scheme’ for EU nationals and their families has been published. The scheme opens fully in March 2019 and does not  apply to citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Getting settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme means a person can continue to live and work in the UK after 31 December 2020, and potentially apply for British citizenship (a route open to many long-term EU nationals already, of course, as explained here).  Pilots in specific areas and workplaces are underway. 

The Home Office has also published a set of example cases of different kinds of situation facing EU nationals, with guidance on what will happen to each.

The government’s Stay Informed campaign provides EU citizens in the UK with official sources of information about how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU affects them.

The Migration Observatory reports on the difficulties that might be faced by some applicants. The NRPF has produced a briefing for local authorities (pdf) on the groups most likely to be affected and how to help them.

The Mayor of London has a new web page giving advice to Londoners on Brexit, which will be updated with new guidance as it is produced.

Arrangements for EU nationals who arrive during the 'transition period'

If EU nationals arrive in the UK after March next year but during the ‘implementation period’ (currently until December 2020) will they have the same rights as those already here? Proposed rules were published in February by the Home Office.

They said:

  • EU citizens who arrive during this post-Brexit period will have to register if they wish to stay for longer than three months. Registration will be “straightforward and streamlined” and there will be an additional three-month window for applications after the implementation period to ensure there is no cliff edge.
  • Irish citizens will not need to register.
  • EU citizens and their family members who arrive, are resident and have registered during the implementation period will be given a temporary status in UK law that will enable them to stay for five years. They will then be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. 

The original document also said: 

  • There will be key differences between these rights and those of EU nationals who arrived before March 2019. The most important is that they will have to abide by the same rules as UK nationals in bringing family members to the UK, including income requirements.
  • These rights will be subject to UK law, not EU law.

However, these last two points were dropped in the draft transition deal published on 19 March, which insists that 'free movement' rules will apply to all EU nationals who arrive during the transition period.

What happens if there is 'no deal'?

As March 2019 approaches, there is growing concern that the UK might leave the EU without a deal being agreed. This is the subject of a Free Movement blog. Broadly, the right of EEA citizens (including those from non-EU countries, like Norway, and from Switzerland) to live and work here – and the legality of landlords housing them, and so on – would broadly continue unless and until the UK government or parliament changes the rules. There is a risk of the UK taking retaliatory action, though, if there is no deal and the remaining 27 EU countries do not protect the rights of UK nationals living in them. If this were to happen, of course, there would be considerable publicity about it.

Post-Brexit immigration policy

The government has promised a white paper on its post-Brexit immigration policy. This is not due until the autumn. This means that the future rights of EU nationals, who come to the UK after 'Brexit day', are still unclear. The FT lists 13 categories of migrant who might be disadvantaged by Brexit.

Sources of guidance for European nationals resident in the UK

Here are some useful links to other sources of guidance:

  • 'settled status' is explained in this article by McGill & Co
  • the ILPA has a series of briefings about the rights of residence of EEA and Swiss nationals
  • Free Movement publishes a free set of e-book guides, aimed at different types of EU or EEA national who may want to apply for residence documents in the UK.

How to make a permanent residence application

Free Movement has a step-by-step guide to help do this.

Effects of Brexit on Irish nationals

A House of Commons paper describes the 'Common Travel Area' and how it might change under Brexit, affecting Irish nationals. Some problems that Irish citizens may face are described by the Free Movement blog.

Effects of Brexit on asylum seekers and refugees

The government has said little on this issue but Free Movement has examined it in three articles, starting here.

Effects of Brexit on migration, housing need and housing entitlements

CIH has published a What you need to know for CIH members, summarising possible effects of Brexit on housing, housing demand and immigration


We welcome suggestions for updating the guidance on the Housing Rights website and for including links to relevant new sources of guidance or information.

Please email policyandpractice@cih.org with any suggestions, making clear your message refers to this website.

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