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EU citizens, Immigration and the Brexit White Paper

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Many top Immigration lawyers would agree that the issue of Immigration was one of the key drivers behind the ‘leave’ vote in the so-called Brexit referendum. With the publication of the Brexit White Paper, our EEA Immigration solicitors look at the provisions on ‘mobility’ of EU citizens, and the provisions on Immigration and Asylum.

Immigration a key Brexit issue

One of the hot topics in the debate leading up to the Brexit referendum was Immigration – and while the latest results of the British Social Attitudes Survey suggest that around 50% of the UK population believe Immigration is a good thing both for business, and the UK’s cultural life, Immigration remains a contentious point as far as the Brexit negotiations are concerned. Since the referendum too, there has been extensive debate about the negative impact Brexit will have on the British economy. Many EU citizens who have lived and worked in the UK for years are deciding to leave the UK, no longer feeling welcome here; Brexit has also led to a reduction in the number of EU citizens who might otherwise have come to the UK to live, work or study. This has had a knock-on effect for business, with many employers struggling to maintain their workforce.

In recent weeks, the UK Government has published its Brexit White Paper –” The United Kingdom’s exit from, and future partnership with, the European Union”. The paper specifically addresses Immigration and the rights of EU citizens in the UK (and UK citizens living in the EU) as key issues, and in greater detail than previously.

EU citizens and ‘mobility’

The Brexit white paper confirms the ‘transition period’ which extends free movement rights of EU citizens in the UK to the end of 2020. At this point, UK domestic law will control the movement of EU citizens into the UK – and new Immigration legislation is clearly contemplated to regulate this.

However, alongside this, the UK government envisages a ‘framework for mobility’ tied to trade agreements for the provision of services. These agreements, known as ‘Mode 4’ commitments, already operate in the context of trade agreements with other countries. While free movement as UK Immigration lawyers currently know it is destined to end with Brexit, the Brexit white paper clearly anticipates agreements which will allow the mobility of UK and EU citizens in connection with future trade agreements.

There are 5 key points where the UK Government appears keen to agree ‘reciprocal arrangements’ on mobility within the future economic partnership with the EU, as follows

- To allow businesses to deliver services and to move talented people

This is to include short term business travel without the need for a visa and intra-corporate transfers of staff

- To allow free travel for tourism and temporary work purposes

Visa free travel for tourist purposes, with the European Health Insurance Card to remain in use

- To allow students and young people the ability to study and benefit from ‘cultural experiences’

The Brexit white paper suggests a UK-EU ‘youth mobility scheme’ to facilitate this

- To allow streamlined travel, while strengthening the UK’s borders

The White paper is short on details save that “tourists and business visitors should not routinely have to face questions about the purpose of their visit.”

- To allow for ‘other mobility provisions’ – this includes protecting the rights of UK citizens living in the EU following Brexit.

While mainly concerned with UK citizens in the EU, the Brexit White Paper indicates that this could include agreement around recognition of qualifications

The Brexit white paper also envisages the principle of non-discrimination to apply to these arrangements.

Alongside future arrangements which are the subject of ongoing negotiation, sits the Settled Status scheme for EU citizens already living in the UK (and those who come to live in the UK before December 2020. We have discussed this scheme in other blogs on our website.

Immigration and the Brexit white paper

In respect of Immigration and Asylum matters, the Brexit white paper sets out the UK’s commitment to “ … a new, strategic relationship…” between the UK and EU to address Asylum and illegal migration. It also envisages a new agreement with the EU on the return of Asylum seekers and illegal migrants to a country they travelled through or have a connection with, to have their claims heard there – presumably rather than in the UK.

Crucially for Immigration solicitors, the document recognises “new arrangements that enable unaccompanied Asylum-seeking children in the EU to join close family members in the UK, where it is in their best interests and vice versa”. This is something to be welcomed, in a document that otherwise talks about strengthening the EU’s external border and making “interventions at every stage of the migrant journey”, ensuring “no new incentives are created to make dangerous journeys to Europe”.

Everything subject to negotiation

Of course, the Brexit white paper merely sets out the UK’s position. It remains to be seen what the negotiations will deliver – and the details will only be able to follow once agreement is reached. OTS Solicitors will keep you updated.

OTS Solicitors are Legal 500 recommended Immigration and Human Rights specialist lawyers based in London, UK. We handle all aspects of EU and EEA migration, business immigration and personal Immigration matters. To discuss your Immigration issue with some of the best Immigration lawyers in London, please call 0203 959 9123

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