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On the Brink: Prospects for UK Nationals in the EU-27 after a No-Deal Brexit
Policy Briefs
September 2019

On the Brink: Prospects for UK Nationals in the EU-27 after a No-Deal Brexit

In the run-up to the original March 2019 Brexit date, the European Union saw a flurry of activity as the remaining 27 Member States quickly put together contingency plans for what would happen should the United Kingdom crash out of the bloc without a deal. By necessity, many of these plans were skeletal. The extension of the Brexit deadline to the end of October 2019 bought the EU-27 additional time, but, as this policy brief discusses, few countries have undertaken significant additional planning for how to register and secure the rights of their resident UK nationals.

This could spell major difficulties ahead for the nearly 1 million Britons living in the EU-27, who in a no-deal Brexit would become third-country nationals overnight, with implications for their residence status, employment rights, health-care access, and more. The United Kingdom, with its larger EU-national population of 3.6 million, has already rolled out a pilot program to enable these residents to adjust their legal status. Still, the challenges coming to light with this program hint at what could be in store for UK nationals facing untested systems in the EU-27.

This policy brief looks at the major gaps in contingency plans across the EU-27 and the groups likely to be hit hardest by a no-deal Brexit, including mixed-nationality families, same-sex partners, and pensioners. It also recommends strategies the EU-27 and the United Kingdom could adopt to smooth the landing—from dropping some official criteria to register residence and making documentation requirements more flexible, to moving ahead with discussions of future social security coordination.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Contingency Planning for No Deal

III. Gaps in Contingency Planning

A. Residence Permits

B. Social Security Coordination and Health Care

IV. Vulnerable Groups

V. What Can Be Done to Soften the No-Deal Landing?

A. Maximizing the Number of People with Proof of Legal Residence

B. Moving Forward with Social Security Negotiations

C. Developing Smart Public Outreach and Campaigns

D. Planning for Returns

E. Beginning to Rethink the Future Immigration System