Hence, all talk of renegotiating the terms of the deal represents nothing but shameless time-wasting.
In any case, the future of more than 2.5 million EU citizens currently residing in the UK is now more uncertain than ever before. If free movement comes to an end on October 31, this would mean UK citizens in the EU could instantly lose their right to stay legally in the EU. The same also playing in reverse – no assurances for EU citizens in the UK.
Boris Johnson was Prime Minister for less than a month before he announced sweeping changes to the EU citizens’ status after the October 31 Brexit deadline. Priti Patel, the new Home Secretary, has confirmed that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, free movement for all EU citizens in the UK will also end instantly.
Unsurprisingly, the result has been widespread anxiety among the approximately 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK, of which around 2.5 million have not formally registered their status. They were previously told of a 2020 deadline to register, which has now been pulled-back to October 31.
When Theresa May was in power, the government stated outright that it would “guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain … as early as we can.” A promise Boris Johnson and his cabinet seem to have torn apart and tossed in the trash.
Change of plan
The biggest difference to the previous plan lies in the apparent elimination of any grace period. Previously, EU citizens travelling to the UK after October 31 but before December 31 would have had the same rights as those who entered the UK before the Brexit deadline. Under the new rules, the UK’s new immigration system would come into force immediately – as would that of the EU and its member states.
Alarmingly, a report from the Department of Health also revealed that in a no-deal situation, EU citizens would immediately be liable for paying for their NHS visits and treatments. The immigration status of every EU citizen would need to be checked, before allowing the respective individual access to free healthcare under the NHS. An additional burden the already struggling UK health system could do without.
As there are still more questions than answers regarding Brexit, concerned parties are being advised to seek professional legal counsel as early as possible. Particularly where EU citizens in the United Kingdom have not yet applied for settled status, waiting until any closer to the October 31 deadline may be inadvisable.