United Kingdom: Parliament votes down bill to guarantee residency to EU nationals, but expects to pass Brexit bill

What is the change? Parliament has voted against an amendment to the Brexit bill that would have guaranteed permanent residency to EU nationals currently living in the U.K. post-Brexit.

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What does the change mean? The Brexit bill is currently being debated in Parliament and is expected to pass, giving Prime Minister Theresa May’s government the green light to trigger Article 50. The vote on the amendment means that the status of EU nationals in the U.K. remains an issue to be negotiated between the U.K. and the EU “as a priority” after Article 50 is invoked in March.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: EEA passport holders, EEA family-permit or residence-card holders.
  • Who is affected: EEA nationals and family members living in the U.K.
  • Business impact: The status of EEA nationals living and working in the U.K. remains uncertain and will not be guaranteed until reciprocal guarantees are offered to U.K. nationals.

Background: The amendment to the Brexit bill would have ensured permanent residency rights for approximately 3 million EU nationals currently living in the U.K. Parliament rejected the proposed amendment by a vote of 332-290.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd issued a letter to reassure colleagues that the status of EU nationals would not be changed by the Great Repeal Bill, which seeks to transpose all EU law into U.K. law. The letter said that any changes to immigration rules for EEA nationals would be dealt with through a separate Immigration Bill to be debated in Parliament and promised that “nothing will change for any EU citizen without Parliament’s approval.”

May has consistently stated that she will not unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the U.K. until U.K. nationals living within the EU receive reciprocal assurances.

BAL Analysis: The status of EU nationals in the U.K. post-Brexit remains uncertain with the rejection of the amendment. Rudd’s letter offers no legal guarantee to the 3 million EEA nationals in the U.K. and suggests only that Parliament will be able to vote on immigration law changes. Meanwhile, the Brexit bill is likely to pass, giving the government approval to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and begin formal exit procedures in March.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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