While it has seemed certain that the EU Settlement Scheme would ensure the future rights of the approximately 3 million EU citizens currently residing in the UK to stay in the country, the current disarray in the government means that once again these rights may be put back on the negotiating table. There may also be another issue for the scheme: Michael Gove. While not the favourite to secure the hottest job in British politics, Mr Gove has declared that he feels the system is not up to scratch, and may indeed opt to remove it in favour of a declaratory scheme, ensuring continued rights for EU citizens who entered the UK before the referendum in 2016.
While there are clearly many EU citizens who have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, it appears there are many who have not. This failure (which in many cases is due to the citizens reluctance to apply to maintain rights that they are perfectly entitled to) could put the British government in a very tricky spot with deciding who stays and who goes if there are no reciprocal freedom of movement rights installed in any future agreement between the British government and their EU counterparts.
A failure to ensure a smooth transition out of the European Union could end up being a huge logistical headache for the UK. If the UK maintains the EU Settlement Scheme, many EU citizens currently residing in the UK will be able to continue their lives with little problem, it is the ones who do not that may cause the problem. So far, there has been little appetite for any kind of forced repatriation but what happens if there are, as seems increasingly likely, a large number of employed EU citizens living and working in the UK with no obvious rights to remain? It is this potential problem that may just open the door for some creative posturing from Conservative leadership candidates. It seems that Mr Gove has taken an early strike on what may become a very real issue for Britain.
We are currently in the midst of Brexit paralysis, an issue that is not going to be cleanly resolved by any of the current Conservative leadership candidates. It did appear that Boris Johnson was the clearest of all the candidates but some recent backtracking and downplaying of words means Mr Johnson, even as the staunchest no-deal Brexit supporter, now appears to understand the enormity of the task which removed Theresa May from Number 10.
The truth is, nobody really knows what is going to happen after the Conservative leadership contest. Any of the candidates are going to face all of the problems that Theresa May faced: a resilient European negotiating team and a Conservative Party split down the middle. Indeed, we face potentially more problems if Boris Johnson is elected leader. Johnson, for all of his media popularity, is a particularly divisive figure. The political equivalent of Marmite, Johnson splits opinion massively. It is this very real problem that will ultimately decide the fate of the UK. It seems the Johnson is far and away the favourite to win the race but what happens when he needs to put his words into actions?
Whatever happens, it appears the fate of the 3 million EU citizens residing in the UK is actually far from settled. At least one of the candidates wants to scrap the EU Settlement Scheme entirely and the rest are yet to make their positions clear. Another factor in need of consideration is if populism will play a part. In the USA and some parts of Europe, a populist wave has changed entire countries almost overnight. No longer in the shadows, a right-wing populist wave has swept over many western democracies. Will the allure of popularity prove too tempting to ignore? The main contender, Boris Johnson, has the support of US president Donald Trump. Could this support help to bring Nigel Farage and his newly found Brexit Party supporters into play? Certainly there is a chance that Mr Trump, who holds significant sway with his good friend Farage, could make a play that helps Mr Farage gain power by assisting Johnson to the top.
Of course, there is another possibility: almost nothing happens. Yes, thatâ€™s right, almost nothing. While the likes of Donald Trump have mastered a populist movement, in truth heâ€™s actually achieved very little. Remember the much vaunted Travel Ban? While Trump did eventually manage to, mostly, get his way, legal challenges have hindered its progress.
Then there is The Wall.
Up until the start of 2019, although Trump had made many promises and had even issued a national emergency (so as to make funds available for the construction) not a single section of the wall - that would need to cover 1,300 miles - has been built. If this is what happens when a populist figure has executive power, what on earth is Boris Johnson, who needs the support of a parliamentary majority, going to achieve?
So it seems that the most likely outcome of Brexit is that there will be some kind of agreement. This agreement will almost certainly maintain the current rights of the 3 million EU citizens currently residing in the UK, and will most likely also install a preference for EU migrants for the foreseeable future. For all of the political posturing, a no-deal Brexit is practically unthinkable. Those who have supported it have fallen by the wayside, and even a moderate like Theresa May struggled to make meaningful progress. If all reasonable attempts have failed, it seems that any attempt to rip the UK out of the European Union is likely to fail terribly. While all of this is based on likelihoods, it still makes a lot of sense for EU citizens to use the EU Settlement Scheme in case the unthinkable becomes a reality.
If you feel you need any immigration advice in the face of Britainâ€™s current political landscape, then feel free to get in touch with one our immigration specialists. Our expert team will more than happy to assist you with any immigration-related query you bring their way.
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