Post-Brexit planning for UK migrants must begin quickly across EU, report warns
BRUSSELS — National and local authorities across the European Union need to move swiftly to clarify the status of British citizens living on their territory after Brexit, or risk making a mess of the recently agreed deal on citizens’ rights, a new Migration Policy Institute Europe and Goldsmiths, University of London report warns.
The report, Next Steps: Implementing a Brexit deal for UK citizens living in the EU-27, stresses that EU and UK negotiators made huge strides in enshrining the rights of citizens affected by the Brexit referendum in their March agreement, where they set out a draft legal text on citizens’ rights. But national and sub-national officials across the European Union have been on the margins of the negotiations and many are waiting for a final withdrawal agreement in Brussels before making plans.
Now that a draft legal text has been agreed, policymakers can—and should—act quickly. For a start, they could make sure systems for applying for residency are available online, user-friendly and available in English, and that those who apply are given instant proof to show landlords or prospective employers. Any further delay could mean officials have to design systems and adjust the status of hundreds of thousands of Britons in a relatively short period after Brexit.
There are also longer-term questions that need to be addressed. The draft withdrawal agreement gives Member States considerable discretion on how and whether to request that UK nationals apply for a new status. But how will this process work?
The report recommends dropping some of the more onerous existing requirements on permanent residency applications, such as being required to document five years of continuous employment or private health insurance. Instead, Member States could rely more on self-reporting, informal forms of evidence and even social media data.
MPI Europe and Goldsmiths researchers stress that there are considerable pitfalls for officials who get this wrong. ‘If not handled carefully, the process of regularising the legal status of hundreds of thousands of British nationals could undermine public trust in immigration systems, encourage fraud and create an unauthorised population of Britons left without status’, the report finds.
Some 38 policymakers gave MPI Europe candid assessments of their state of readiness for Brexit—often admitting that they have not even begun to consider basic policy questions.
The report also reflects interviews by Goldsmiths researchers with more than 100 UK nationals, many of whom have been deeply unsettled by the negotiations and remain confused about what to conclude from recent announcements from Brussels.
Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/implementing-brexit-deal-uk-citizens-eu.
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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.