The British government has decided to scrap the controversial "Settled Status" fee for EU citizens currently residing in the UK. While the fee to apply for the special status that allows EU citizens to cement their status in the UK following Brexit has been waived, these citizens will still need to apply for the much maligned status if they wish to continue to receive their right of stay in the UK after Brexit. Speaking in parliament, British prime minister Theresa May said: "having listened to concerns from members and organisations like the "The 3 Million" group, I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30th March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. And anyone who has or will apply during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed. More details about how this will work will be made available in due course".
The only certainty in the UK at the moment is the uncertainty. In the almost three years since the UK decided to leave the European Union, the rights of the approximately three million EU citizens residing in the UK have been in constant turmoil. Time after time the government has refused to enshrine their rights to stay in the UK and has now invented a process to try to get citizens to confirm their own rights. The only good news in all of this is that at least they will now no longer be charged for the privilege of staying in their adopted home land.
As the UK has still not really figured out its path for the future, the "Settled Status" idea appears to be half baked. There is still a small chance that the UK will not actually leave the European Union at all; though the political fallout of such a move makes it incredibly unlikely. The most likely options left on the table now are either an incredibly damaging no-deal, remaining in the European Union or a deal that somehow passes through an extremely divided parliament that has little appetite for any of the options that are currently on the table.
It is not only EU citizens in the UK who have to worry about their future after Brexit. There are also the millions of Britons who live abroad in the EU who have their futures to consider as well. Like many of the EU citizens living in the UK, many Britons chose to relocate to European neighbours. Often, these people left behind little in the way of family ties and are no longer attached to the UK. One potential problem that arises for these people is the potential of not being able to guarantee their own right to remain in the EU once the UK leaves the trading bloc.
So far no country has posited the idea of repatriating citizens or refusing rights, but this will largely depend on how the UK approaches leaving the Union. Britain is one of the largest economies in the bloc and its exit will undoubtedly do financial harm to the remaining members of the Union. This damage will only be made worse if the UK chooses a damaging path for exit rather than negotiating a withdrawal that takes the appropriate amount of time and is done with due consideration. Britain may need to keep friends in the EU in order to make this happen and maintain rights for its own citizens abroad.
For Britain to decide what happens next it needs to come up with a clear and coherent plan for withdrawal. So far this has been a sticking point. Politicians from across the political spectrum have been unable to convince Prime Minister Theresa May to change course on what appears to be her one woman mission to deliver her own deal. If there is one point that politicians can agree on, it's that Theresa May so far has not been taking opinions from across parliament. This course has meant that she has faced humiliating defeats on some of the more contentious parts of the withdrawal process. Whether she can change this in the next few weeks is unknown - but it seems unlikely.
Her current option, which she is following, is to try yet again to get the remaining member states of the European Union to reconsider what they see as a vital part of the Brexit deal: the Northern Ireland backstop. The backstop has been put into place to try and avoid placing a hard border back on the island of Ireland. The move to reinstate a hard border on the island would be incredibly unpopular and would signal a return to times that both countries would rather forget. The failure of the British government to come to a deal that removes the necessity for such a move is a clear signal of a negotiation failure on their part with their EU counterparts.
So can Theresa May get a deal done? With the Northern Ireland backstop, which would essentially keep Northern Ireland in the EU separated from the UK, in place, it seems rather unlikely. Theresa May now has a huge job on her hands to either convince Northern Ireland that the backstop is workable, or convince the other heads of the remaining EU member states to back down. Whatever she does next, it appears that Theresa May's worries are far from over.
If you need help with your options for remaining in the UK then please get in touch. Our immigration specialists are ideally placed to help you to decide what your next move should be as far as your immigration status is concerned. So do not panic, get in touch today and let our team of expert immigration solicitors help you with your next step.
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