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    Second Class Citizens: The Rights EU Citizens in the UK Will Lose Post-Brexit

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    In 2017, UK Prime Minister Theresa May outlined a "generous offer" to the 3.7 million European Union citizens living in the UK post-Brexit, stating they would enjoy rights "almost equivalent to British citizens".

    However, as of June 2018, greater clarity on which existing rights will be lost remains unforthcoming — although there are certain areas in which removal, or at least reduction, is almost certain.

    Right to Leave

    EU citizens are able to move from member state to member state at their behest under current freedom of movement rules. Whitehall has pledged to put an end to this freedom once the UK leaves, replacing it with the right to earn "settled status" in the UK. Under the proposal, EU citizens who've lived in the UK for five years can apply for indefinite leave to remain — however, settled status does not equate to citizenship.

    Merkel and Cameron
    © AFP 2019 / JOHN MACDOUGALL
    In 2014, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned David Cameron that the principle of freedom of movement within the European Union was not up for negotiation — and that she would rather see the UK leave the EU than compromise one of the EU's founding principles.
    Moreover, while UK citizens are free to work abroad, EU citizens with "settled status" are not — and under current proposals, any EU citizen with settled status in the UK risks losing it if they leave the country for five years or more. Exceptions may nonetheless be made if a citizen has "strong ties" in the UK, but further details are yet to be offered.

    Familial Rights

    EU citizens currently have the right to bring over family members to reside in the UK — almost inevitably, this right will be at best significantly reduced, or at worst removed outright.

    EU negotiators have secured concessions from the UK government which partially extend current family reunification rights after the Brexit transition period, allowing married EU citizens only to bring existing spouses, parents and children to the UK.

    Court Protection

    The rights of EU citizens living in the UK are currently protected by the European Court of Justice — but Whitehall is committed to leaving the court's jurisdiction post-Brexit.

    Claude Moraes MEP, chair of the European Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, said in 2017 leaving the court's jurisdiction "[threatened] the rights of both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in other EU countries" and would "create greater uncertainty for UK and EU citizens," taking up "limited negotiating time" in the process.

    Illegal Immigrants

    Brussels is reportedly bracing for a 'no deal' Brexit, due to a "lack of progress" in negotiations. Should the UK simply fall out of the bloc, the ramifications for EU citizens could be catastrophic. The majority would effectively be living in the UK without formal legal status — illegal immigrants, in effect — and there is no indication Whitehall has prepared for the eventuality.

    Second Class Citizens

    European citizens who arrive to the UK prior to the proposed Brexit transition period ends — December 31, 2020 — will be allowed to apply for "settled status" under terms negotiated between the UK and EU in 2018.

    Immigration
    Immigration
    However, it remains unclear how EU citizens arriving after this date will be able to migrate to the UK, although it may involve the institution of a visa system. The question of whether EU citizens will receive preferential treatment to non-EU migrants is likewise uncertain.

    Related:

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    Brexit deal, Brexit talks, Brexit 'deal or no deal', Brexit, Brexit, European Union, Europe, United Kingdom
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