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Independent thinktank publishes report on status of EEA nationals in the UK

A new report published by British Futures has encouraged the government to formalise proposals concerning the status of EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit.

Current Opinion.

The status of current EU citizens was a matter of great contention during the EU debate and remains so now. Liam Fox was widely criticised for referring to them as “bargaining chips” and there has been pressure for the UK government to clarify their position.

Despite the importance of freedom of movement in the referendum result, a poll conducted in the days after the referendum found that 84% of the British public supported allowing EU migrants already present in the UK to remain, which included over three-quarters (77% per cent) of Leave voters.

Aims of the Report.

The report therefore aims to investigate what the best possible outcome for these citizens will be and what is the most practical solution for government to take with regards to them.

Six major proposals have been suggested:

  1. A cut-off date should be selected after which changes to the current rights of EU citizens may apply. The date that has been suggested is when Article 50 is triggered;
  2. That EU nationals who can show five years’ residency in the UK be offered Permanent Residence. It has further recommended that the UK Government pass legislation to automatically convert Permanent Residence into a new Indefinite Leave to Remain for EU citizens;
  3. That the family requirements for EU citizens currently in the UK are different from the usual family migration route for non EU citizens. The report has suggested that individuals who were qualified persons on the cut-off date, or who have Permanent Residence or the new Indefinite Leave to Remain, keep their previous rights to family migration for a five-year transition period after the UK leaves the EU;
  4. That the social security and other social rights conveyed upon EU citizens by the British government, such as student loans, in- and out-of work benefits, social housing and fee status in further and higher education, be retained for a five-year transition period;
  5. There may be an overload in applications for Permanent Residence post Brexit. Therefore, the report recommends that the process is de-centralised, with local authority Nationality Checking Services given the first round responsibility for processing and approving applications;
  6. It further recommends that Citizens Advice and other related organisations be funded to offer advice to EU citizens for any assistance with permanent residence.

It is also worth noting that these proposals would also refer to citizens of Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, who benefit from freedom of movement, an area collectively referred to as EEA+.

The Status of British Citizens Within the EU.

The report further suggests that these steps should be taken by the government at the soonest possible opportunity, even before the rights of British Citizens within the EU have been guaranteed. This may allow any negotiations conducted with the EU over their status to be done in good faith and set a good groundwork for reciprocal arrangements for UK nationals living in the EU.

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