Brexit and Immigration Control - What does this mean for EU nationals?

This article was published prior to the publication of the post-Brexit agreement between the UK and EU which covers the relationship between the UK and EU following the end of the implementation period (commonly referred to as the “transition period”) created by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, and should be read in that context. For up-to-date commentary and information on our services, please see our Beyond Brexit page.

Yesterday, Tuesday 17 January, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, gave a speech on Brexit setting out 12 objectives she will pursue in her negotiations to leave the EU. Central to the negotiations are the control of immigration and rights for EU nationals living in Britain. It seems that the UK will sacrifice being part of the Single Market to ensure that the UK can control its borders and curb the free movement of people. The Prime Minister has made it clear that EU freedom of movement must end stating:

"As Home Secretary for six years, I know that you cannot control immigration overall when there is free movement to Britain from Europe…Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver"

Although nothing is definite at this stage, there is a real possibility that following the UK's departure from the EU there will be a single-tier immigration regime. Consequently, EU nationals will become subject to the same immigration controls that currently apply to non-EU nationals. This means EU nationals would require a visa to enter and remain in the UK, be subject to minimum income requirements and have no automatic right to have their family in the UK.

Since publishing our article on Brexit Concerns in March 2016, we have seen a vast increase in the number of EU nationals protecting their status in the UK by applying for either a residence card, permanent residence or British Citizenship.  

The Prime Minister intends to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017, formally notifying the EU of the UK's intention to leave. With Brexit fast approaching, we strongly advise anyone wishing to protect their status in the UK to take action as soon as possible to avoid any possible delays and future uncertainty.

For assistance and advice on this matter and for information on our immigration service, please contact Kirsty Cooke ( / 01392 333908). 

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