The Sudden End To Free Movement In The European Union

In recent Brexit news, the Home Secretary Priti Patel, has announced that the government is considering ending the free movement of EU citizens the day after Brexit, the 31st October 2019, in the case of a no-deal Brexit. The entails that from the 1st of November European nationals will be affected.

A common misconception is that European nationals will suddenly be denied entry to the UK, thus stopping free movement. That is not the case. These persons will still be allowed to enter the UK, but they subject to more thorough immigration controls, and their entry could be limited to a 90-day stay.

Brexit without a deal meant that Freedom of movement would always eventually end. However, European citizens were originally permitted until December 2020 to regularise their status and acquire the correct documentation to demonstrate their residency. The EU Settlement Scheme was introduced by the government allowing European citizens who have already been residing here to regularise their status, and for citizens who want to move to the UK to do so before 2021.

Should the government continue with this new date, this will leave these citizens with next to no time to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. Therefore, the status of most people will change almost overnight. This will also suddenly give them no right to work, no right to residency, and no right to access the benefits offered by the UK.

Another flaw in this new proposal, is it does not cater to complex immigration histories. EU citizens have not had to document their movements for many years, and thus had created room for complicated situations. The government have not put in place a system that can account for these situations within a couple of weeks.

As well as this, the problems will not just be for the citizens themselves, but for many sectors in society. The lack of defined provision in place will lead to employers, landlords, banks and the NHS having to differentiate European citizens with the right to remain, from European citizens without the right to remain, without any clear guidelines in place. This will inevitably cause a hostile environment for all parties involved.

This potential outcome has been compared to Windrush, particularly from a legal perspective. Although the Windrush generation did enter and reside in the UK legal, due to a lack of records, the difficulty lay in proving their legal status. The difference with European citizens is that they have always been residing in the UK legally, with records to prove this, but they may suddenly find themselves to be residing unlawfully.

Overall, the UK has become a relatively unpleasant place to live for European citizens since 2016. This continuous uncertainty has left the fate of many citizens up in the air, and this recent development has caused many more people to panic. Nevertheless, this suggestion is yet to be approved.