3 big reasons EU citizens’ rights are still not certain

by Luke Lythgoe | 23.07.2018

The government’s claims to have given 3 million EU citizens living here “certainty about their rights going forward” are hopelessly premature, even if we avoid the perils of “no deal”.  A report by the Commons’ Brexit committee highlights three big with the Home Office’s current plan.

Many EU citizens may fail to apply

The government is offering both EU nationals living in the UK before Brexit and those who move during the transition period a route to something called “settled status”. This guarantees their right to residency in the UK.

The Home Office has repeatedly insisted that applying will be a cheap and easy process. Which is why the number of examples MPs found of those who might fail to apply – for many reasons – is worrying. They include:

  • Children whose parents do not realise their offspring must apply;
  • Very long-term residents;
  • People who already applied for Permanent Residence (the previous system);
  • People who think they’re ineligible – for example those already rejected for the much trickier Permanent Residence status, or those with minor criminal offences;
  • Victims of domestic abuse, who might rely on a partner for evidence;
  • Those who have been trafficked or abused by an employer;
  • People with an unclear housing situation;
  • Hard-to-reach vulnerable groups like children in care or people in care homes;
  • People living in rural areas, for example Eastern European agricultural workers, where official immigration advice might not reach;
  • Those on low incomes – especially large families – who can’t afford the £65 fee for adults and £32.50 for children.

The way to limit these cases relies on the government providing clear, easily accessible information. But even then, some people will undoubtedly fall through the cracks.

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Digital dilemmas

The Home Office’s plan is super high-tech, involving scanning your biometric passport with an app and successful applicants receiving a digital code. The government isn’t famous for its seamless delivery of big IT projects, and alarm bells are already ringing.

There have been problems with the app only being available on Android, not Apple, devices. Language barriers, age, disability and a lack of digital literacy might all prevent people from applying. Complicated non-English names, for example with lots of accents, could prove problematic for the technology. And there is no clear plan for how this digital code can be presented to employers and landlords who have traditionally relied on physical documents.


The Home Office plans to keep the application process open until June 2021, six months after the transition period is due to end. It has also promised some leniency for those who apply after the deadline through “no fault of their own”.

The worry is that if the processing of applications by the Home Office continues after this two-year post-Brexit period, then there will be EU citizens without a legal status living in the country – potentially quite a lot depending on how efficient the process is.

Of course none of this addresses the perils of a no-deal Brexit. Or what plans are in place for citizens of non-EU EEA countries, like Norwegians or Icelandic. Meanwhile around a million Brits on the continent are equally in the dark. As the Brexit mess staggers on, millions of people’s lives are being left in limbo.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

4 Responses to “3 big reasons EU citizens’ rights are still not certain”

  • I am appalled and find all elements of the malicious and fraudelent Brexit disturbing. Each day worsens, led by a populist government, who simply are self-serving and disingenuous. Why should we have our rights and freedoms stripped away? Why should we have self-inflicted harm and untold uncertainty imposed upon us for generations to come? Why such a hostile environment created? I could go on and on, negatives all the way.

  • “Meanwhile around a million Brits on the continent are equally in the dark.” No, that’s not true. We are much MORE in the dark!

  • If we don’t stop BREXIT then it will signal the beginning of the end of the European Union. It will be tragic. But Trump and Putin and Brextremist Politicians and their billionaire friends are certain to be the winners!

    In its place we will have ultra right wing nationalist, fascist countries where democracy will just be a bygone word.
    Unfortunately, it looks as if the Head of the European Commission has just welcomed Trump with open arms. Jean Claud Juncker was a banker, so what do you expect? Many EU Citizens who were awake and following the news protested against the previous EU/US deal called TTIP and succeeded in 2017 after a long campaign. It was dumped, especially as there was the threat of Inter State private courts virtually run by Big Corporations who would be allowed to sue national European Governments if they did not agree with certain US products because they did not fall into line with EU strict regulations on food safety and chemicals and environment protection laws.

    The problems began when Europeam citizens, especially from the UK, became totally ignorant of the importance of belonging to the European Union. Shall we blame it on a bad education system or on years of Euro Sceptic Tory Governments who slowly but surely, ran down our education system, the NHS, our Welfare State and then virtually blamed the 2008 banking crash, not on rogue economists or Banker but on the EU!
    This Brexit, ultra right wing takeover is tragic.
    Let’s not let it happen, fight for £Peoples Vote of for annulment of the ‘advisory’ referendum which was illegally campaigned on by VOTE LEAVE as confirmed by the Electoral Commission and the Police.
    We have too many reasons to cancel Brexit.

  • Absolutely…it feels as though we are going to be the last to know – nobody in Denmark has been able to tell us anything and I doubt they will for a long time. At the moment, my husband has permanent residency status and I am there as a ‘self supporting EU resident’ and am self-employed and don’t have the right to even apply for permanent residency for another 2 years. I don’t have a clue what my legal or residential status is going to be after Brexit.