On 23 June 2016, British nationals voted to leave the European Union. Official exit procedures were however only launched on 29 March 2017, when the United Kingdom ‘triggered Article 50’ – a provision of the Treaty on European Union that outlines how to withdraw from the EU.
To assuage uncertainty on the consequences of such ‘triggering,’ particularly with respect to the position of EU nationals living in the United Kingdom, the Home Office recently issued formal guidance on the matter.
The guidance first stresses that the status of EU nationals within the United Kingdom has not been changed by Article 50 – which only signals the UK’s intent to leave the European Union, but does not, alone, constitute a break with the Union. Indeed, the process of leaving the EU is expected to last two years, during which time both UK and other EU citizens will retain their Union rights, including free movement.
EU nationals living in the UK, and, in turn, UK nationals living in the EU, will thus also keep hold of their residence rights – a fundamental concern for those who live abroad. The import of residence rights was underlined by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who assured that resolving the matter of mutual residential benefits would be her Government’s priority.
The Home Office also confirmed that EU nationals living in the UK for a term of five years or less would not need to register their stay in the United Kingdom. There have also been no changes in relation to the right of EU nationals to enter and exit freely from the UK while it remains a member of the Union. EU nationals will still be entitled to apply for an EEA Family Permit for their non-EU family members, allowing certain spouses and children to remain in the United Kingdom for six months.
For further information and developments in relation to EU nationals in the UK, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/status-of-eu-nationals-in-the-uk-what-you-need-to-know