The Withdrawal Agreement Bill: What Does It Mean for EU Citizens` Rights?
The United Kingdom`s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) has been a long and turbulent process, with many uncertainties and unanswered questions. One of the most pressing issues is the future of EU citizens living and working in the UK, and how their status and rights will be affected by Brexit.
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) is a key piece of legislation that was introduced by the UK government in October 2019, setting out the terms of the UK`s departure from the EU. The bill includes provisions that aim to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and provide them with certainty and stability after Brexit.
So, what do these provisions actually mean for EU citizens` rights?
Firstly, the WAB guarantees that EU citizens who are living in the UK before the end of the Brexit transition period (currently set for December 31, 2020) will be able to stay and continue living and working in the UK. In order to do so, they will need to apply for a new “settled status” scheme that will give them permission to remain in the UK indefinitely.
The settled status scheme will be open to all EU citizens and their family members who are living in the UK before the end of the transition period. It will be free to apply for, and the government has promised to make the process as simple and streamlined as possible. EU citizens will need to provide proof of their identity and residence in the UK, and will be subject to criminal and security checks.
Once granted, settled status will give EU citizens the right to work, study, and access public services in the UK, as well as the right to travel in and out of the country. It will also provide a pathway to British citizenship, for those who choose to pursue it.
The WAB also includes provisions to protect the rights of EU citizens who are already living in the UK before the end of the transition period, but who have not yet applied for settled status. These people will be able to continue living and working in the UK, but will need to apply for settled status by a deadline (currently set for June 30, 2021).
In addition to these protections, the WAB also includes provisions to ensure that EU citizens` rights are not diminished after Brexit. For example, EU citizens living in the UK will continue to have access to healthcare, pensions, and other benefits, and will be able to bring family members to the UK under the current rules.
Overall, the WAB is a positive step towards providing EU citizens living in the UK with certainty and stability after Brexit. However, there are concerns about the practicalities of implementing the settled status scheme, as well as about the potential for discrimination and bureaucratic errors. It is therefore important for both the UK government and EU citizens themselves to be vigilant and proactive in ensuring that these rights are respected and upheld in practice.