United Kingdom – Brexit path remains unclear amid ongoing negotiations

Our latest government sources advise us that Theresa May continues to work towards the 31st March 2017 deadline set to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, officially beginning the two-year process that will withdraw the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). As part of the withdrawal process, the British government has stated its intention to protect the status of EU nationals already living in the UK, but added that this may not be possible if British citizens’ rights in EU member states were not protected in return.

Future for European Union nationals in the United Kingdom

To date, there have been no Brexit-related changes in the rights or status of European Union (EU) nationals living and working in the United Kingdom (UK), or UK nationals living and working in the EU. However, in the wake of the invocation of Article 50, the Home Office anticipates up to three million applications from EU nationals currently residing in the UK. To help manage this volume, the Home Office has launched an online application facility for permanent residence cards or registration certificates for nationals from the wider European Economic Area and Swiss nationals. This online process is intended to provide an alternative pathway to the current lengthy paper application process. The position post-Brexit for EU nationals coming to the UK has yet to be determined, although the government may be considering incorporating them into the existing points-based system.

There has been rising negative press around the treatment of EU nationals living in the UK who have applied for permanent residency or citizenship. European Union citizens have raised increased concerns regarding a “bureaucratic wall” put up by the British Government making it difficult for them to secure their future. As a result Sophie in ‘t Veld, a member of the European Parliament, intends to form a cross-party taskforce after Theresa May triggers Article 50 and begins Brexit negotiations. We await more specific information on what this actually involves and any impact on the UK as it goes through the two year exit process.

Trade Considerations

Another great concern for Theresa May is the impact that Brexit has on Britain’s ability to trade if they move away from the single market. In arriving at the decision to come to the United Kingdom, many foreign businesses had included the ability to take advantage of the single market as a consideration. These companies are now closely watching developments as they unfold. How Britain negotiates trade relationships with other countries is a political dance. Many are waiting to see what happens post-Brexit and are particularly keen to have Britain’s wider immigration rules (as they affect non-EU citizens ) changed in order to agree to a discussion around free trade. Australia and India have communicated to the British government that a relaxation in existing immigration rules will be crucial to any free trade deals with those nations after Brexit.

Whatever happens after Article 50 has been triggered remains to be seen, but the UK immigration rules for all non-British citizens appears to be pivotal if the UK want to arrive at any sensible trade agreements.