Preliminary Brexit Deal Secures EU Citizens’ Right to Remain

Preliminary Brexit Deal Secures EU Citizens’ Right to Remain

An agreement reached before dawn on Friday in the first phase of Brexit talks between the UK and the European Union will preserve the rights of EU citizens currently living, working, and studying in the UK, as well as their British counterparts in Europe, Rob Moss reports at Personnel Today:

Theresa May said that EU citizens living in the UK would have their rights “enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts”. But the agreement, published this morning, says the European Court of Justice will continue to have a role in overseeing their rights for eight years after Brexit – until March 2027. Guarantees will also apply to UK citizens living in other EU countries. …

There are around three million EU citizens living and working in the UK. The joint report states that the objective of the UK’s Brexit agreement is to provide “reciprocal protection for Union and UK citizens, to enable the effective exercise of rights derived from Union law and based on past life choices, where those citizens have exercised free movement rights” by the time of the UK’s withdrawal.

That EU citizens in the UK (and vice versa) would be granted the right to stay has been known since June, and many observers expected the Brexit agreement to include such a provision from the start. What remained uncertain was when these protections would be cut off: Originally, the government had proposed to limit eligibility for “settled” status to those living in the UK on the day the Brexit process was triggered (March 29, 2017), but May left open the possibility of changing it to the day Britain leaves the EU in 2019. Friday’s agreement appears to reflect the EU’s preference of the later date.

Indeed, while the UK government is presenting this agreement as a breakthrough in the previously deadlocked negotiations, May gave in to Brussels’ demands on a number of key issues, including the continuing role of the ECJ in the UK, which is sure to displease some members of her Conservative party and others who favor a “hard Brexit” and see such concessions as impinging on British sovereignty. The Associated Press breaks down the essential points of the agreement, which also covers the border between Northern Ireland and the payment the UK will make to the EU as part of the divorce:

The deal commits to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member. A hard border might include physical infrastructure and controls. It is not clear how this can be reconciled with Britain’s exit from the single market and customs union. …

The agreement doesn’t offer a specific figure for how much Britain will end up paying. Britain’s Press Association, quoting senior sources, put the financial settlement at between 35 billion pounds to 39 billion pounds (40-45 billion euros, $47 billion-$52 billion). Britain will contribute to the EU budget through 2020 as if it had remained fully in the bloc.

This is also just the beginning of a lengthy negotiation and transition process that could take as long as eight years before a final accord is signed and ratified, Bloomberg reports, citing a person familiar with the EU’s thinking. Talks over the transition and the future trade relationship between the UK and the bloc still lie ahead, while a concrete solution for the Irish border remains undetermined. The process could still fall apart over a number of contentious issues.

UK businesses and financial markets have reacted with mixed feelings to the news: The pound rose on the news that an agreement had been reached, but fell later in the day as the details of the deal came out. UK business groups likewise expressed relief but are withholding their applause until they see how things shake out when the next phase of talks begins in the new year. Nobody is changing their Brexit contingency plans just yet. The Royal Bank of Scotland, for instance, tells Bloomberg it is still planning to open a new EU hub outside the UK:

“Businesses like ours have to move forward as though we are not going to get any form of deal that would good for banking,” McEwan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday. “I don’t think we can pause for thought. We have to get in a position of having certain operations so that we can look after customers no matter what happens.” … McEwan said that if the U.K. was able to establish early on the exact nature of the transition agreement then it might be enough to slow their relocation plans.

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