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May we be optimistic about phase one of Brexit?

Mark Hilton, Skills and Employment director, London First

Early on Friday morning, the Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission announced that Agreement had been reached on the ‘Brexit divorce settlement’.  Contained within this 15 page document is the news that we and the 3 million EU citizens in the UK have been waiting for.  Since the referendum, London First has been consistently calling for the UK government to give assurance to EU nationals already living, working and studying in the UK or who arrive before the point of Brexit that they can remain once we leave, with no change to their status. And that this cut-off date and the rights of these EU citizens thereafter are written into law.  The agreement appears to have delivered this.

The headlines are summarised in this Home Office infographic:


Those who already have permanent residence will be able to have their status converted to settled status free of charge.  EU citizens can be absent from the UK for up to five years without losing their settled status.

As the Prime Minister set out in her open letter in Monday night’s Evening Standard, the rights of EU citizens will be written into the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill, which, she says, “we will bring forward after we have completed negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement itself’.  These rights will be enforced by UK courts, but with due regard to the European Court of Justice.

As Jasmine said in our reaction last week, “This is welcome news for the millions of EU citizens who have built their lives in the UK, and for the many UK citizens living and working in Europe. Business has been clear about the importance of our EU colleagues – they help power our economy and society, contributing billions of pounds, building homes and infrastructure and keeping our hospitals, care homes, universities and schools funded and expertly staffed. I’m delighted that Theresa May has confirmed that they may stay.

“This vital progress now needs to be banked, with no room for backtracking, as we move to the next critical stage of negotiations: transition and trade.”

This highlights that while our EU colleagues and their employers can go into Christmas with a sense of certainty they’ve not had since the referendum, there is no room for complacency. We will continue to press the Government to ensure that the application process for settled status, when it is launched next year, is as smooth and low cost as possible.   Processing over three million applications is a huge undertaking and to avoid another ‘Universal Credit style’ meltdown, the right level of resource needs to be allocated to the task.  And, whatever happens with phase two of the negotiations – the trade agreement – it cannot be allowed to undo this agreement on the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

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