Examination of Witness

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:29 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Professor Peers:

Yes. There are a number of concerns. First, it would have been better either to have a ring-fenced agreement covering people on both sides and cutting out that part of the withdrawal agreement, which is not particularly controversial, or to have EU legislation similar to the social security proposal that has already been tabled, which unilaterally and uniformly protects UK citizens’ rights across the whole European Union. For whatever reason, the Commission did not go ahead with that, but it would have been far better to have done that.

What we have instead is different countries doing different things. Some aspects of UK citizens’ rights in the EU27 are governed by EU law on non-EU citizens, and long-term residence is an example of that, but there are parallel national laws on long-term residence too. I do not know the details of the Austrian law offhand, but the EU law on long-term residence has case law saying that you should not impose disproportionate fees, so someone might want to challenge the €210 as a disproportionate fee. However, if that is a national law on long-term residence, you do not have an EU law argument about it, so there will be a lot of non-uniform degrees of protection of UK citizens.

It would be better to have standard rules, because a lot of those citizens would be looking at national long-term residence; EU long-term residence is not necessarily used that much. Some of them will face the difficulties of paying high fees. There may of course be other difficulties in applying. There may be earnings thresholds, or other criteria to be met in relation to health insurance or being employed and so on, to get long-term resident status under national law. Those could be difficult to meet.

There might be issues to do with family reunion. Certainly if the family member has not been registered yet, or if they come after Brexit day, different rules might apply to them. It might be quite challenging to bring families in, or have them to stay. If there is a separation or divorce that could raise issues, and people would be in a more difficult position than they would under EU legislation.

Anyone who does not yet have the right to long-term residence could be in an even more difficult position, depending on how restrictive national law is in relation to how they qualify for the right to stay. Would they be given something like pre-settled status, which we will have in the UK, on the basis that they are on their way to getting long-term resident status, or, instead, a short-term permit? It might be that that could not be renewed, or could not be renewed on the same basis, or would not let the person change jobs, or would not let a student look for work—all things that people would have as an acquired right if the withdrawal agreement is passed.

People who are not registered under the national system for registering foreign citizens will have difficulty in any event. They might have difficulties for that reason alone with qualifying under a national system of getting residence permits. If they do not get a residence permit at some point, their life will be more difficult in terms of travel, access to benefits or whatever it might be.

Those points are a broad indication. They will be different in each country and the details will differ, but they give a broad idea of the sorts of problems UK citizens might face.