Brexit: Deal or no deal? Is the future of the settled status scheme hanging in the balance?

Each day now presents new developments in the Brexit negotiations – and in an update to our article of 20 November 2018, the critical EU Summit has now taken place and the leaders of the EU27 Member States have now agreed the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the future relationship.   This brings to an end the negotiations which began some 20 months ago.  The terms have been declared the, ‘best and only deal possible’.

So far so good.   However, despite this positive progress, a significant hurdle still remains.  The deal must now be approved by the UK Parliament, with voting now expected to take place in the second week of December 2018.  This is by no means a shoo-in; far from it. MPs across all the political parties have voiced significant concerns about the deal, with many expected to vote against it and, in reality, the future of the deal, and the proposed settled status scheme, hangs firmly in the balance.

Theresa May insists that the deal has, ‘delivered for the British people’ and she is urging the public to get behind it with the publication of a letter saying that, ‘it is a deal for a brighter future’.  The importance of the next 2 weeks therefore cannot be overstated.   This is crunch time.

For many employers, the key issues relate to the future status of EU workers in their UK businesses.  By way of reminder, if the deal is approved by Parliament:

  • EU citizens who already lawfully reside in the UK, or who do so by 31 December 2020, will be allowed to  live, work and study in the UK on an ongoing basis.
  • EU citizens who have already reached 5 years’ lawful continuous residence will be required to apply by 30 June 2021 for settled status using an online application form.  Those without 5 years’ lawful residence will be required to apply for pre-settled status.
  • Existing close family members, who are not living in the  UK by 31 December 2020, will be able to join their EU family member in the UK at any point in the future, as long as the relationship still exists when the family member comes to the UK.
  • Unless an individual already holds a permanent residence certificate, a fee will be payable to apply for either settled or pre-settled status (£65, if over 16; £32.50, if under 16).
  • The application process requests basic factual information like names and addresses, plus identity must be verified and proof of residence confirmed. Criminal convictions must also be declared.
  • A pilot of the settled status scheme is already in operation. It will  be fully open by 30 March 2019.

If the deal is not approved, then despite the Government’s current commitment to supporting EU citizens living in the UK, all bets would seemingly be off.  Potential consequences are that the UK could try to renegotiate certain aspects of the deal (which may or may not impact on the settled status scheme), or it could simply end up leaving the EU with no deal, which may impact on how/if the settled status scheme is implemented.  The prospect of another general election can also not be ruled out.   Time will tell.

For any queries, or assistance with managing the impact of Brexit on your workforce, please speak to your usual contact in DLA Piper’s Employment team, or Paul Hardy, our  Brexit Director.

Useful links

Settled and pre-settled status for EU citizens and their families

EU Settlement Scheme: Employer toolkit