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No-deal Brexit looms

AS WE write, a deliberate "no-deal" Brexit looks increasingly likely, with the UK set to crash out of the EU without a withdrawal agreement on 31 October 2019.

pro-EU rally in London; Photo: Matt Salusbury

Yet another pro-EU rally in London

Our many members who are nationals of other EU countries will still be able to apply for EU Settled Status and get permanent residency in the UK after Brexit. Previous UK Prime Minister Theresa May has guaranteed that EU nationals will be able to apply to stay under the EU Settled Status scheme, regardless of whether the UK comes to a formal Withdrawal Agreement with the EU or not. The deadline to apply for EU Settled Status is 30 June 2021: see here for advice to NUJ members on Settled Status from a senior immigration lawyer.

Incoming UK Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, shortly after taking up office, made assurances that his government would "guarantee" the rights of EU nationals in the UK. However, such pledges are meaningless without primary legislation - legislation that has been set before Parliament - being enacted before the 31 October crash-out date. There has been no detail on any such legislation to actually guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK in law, there has been only talk up to now. Passing any legislation, given the current Parliamentary recess and the "government’s" majority of just one, is a tricky prospect.

It gets worse. With his usual lack of attention to detail, Johnson in his pledge on the rights of EU nationals in the UK neglected to make any mention of UK nationals in the EU. These include many NUJ members, including those organised into NUJ Paris Branch, NUJ Brussels Branch and NUJ Netherlands Branch.

In the absence of a Withdrawal Agreement, it's up to the 27 individual member states of the EU to decide what (if anything) they will offer UK nationals by way of work rights, permanent residence and so on after the UK leaves the EU without a deal. See here for some examples of the post-Brexit packages that various EU members states have offered UK nationals.

Some countries, such as the Netherlands, have unilaterally offered UK nationals living there a "decent solution" in the event of no deal. However, others have made it clear their often generous offers to UK nationals staying on after a chaotic Brexit are conditional on a reciprocal arrangement being made, in the expectation that the UK offers exactly the same rights (or better) to their nationals living in the UK.

The governments of France, Portugal and Spain, for example, are on record as saying their generous offers on permanent residency for UK nationals will only apply if the UK grants equivalent rights to their nationals.

Many EU member states have draft emergency legislation ready to be triggered immediately after the UK leaves without a deal, but there is no such legislation in the UK guaranteeing the rights of their nationals there, so these draft emergency laws may not be enacted at all. In this scenario, UK nationals in the EU stand to lose their rights to pension contributions, to healthcare and even to permanent residency.

This then raises the prospect of the UK government being sued (in the UK courts) by numerous British expats in the EU for its negligence in effectively abolishing their rights.

There are already "thousands" of EU nationals in the UK who have been made homeless and destitute following incorrect decisions by the Department of Work and Pensions, which has told them - wrongly - that they don't qualify for Universal Credit (they do). Such decisions are often triggered when EU nationals are moved from another benefit to Universal Credit, often when they move house. EU nationals who appeal such decisions almost always win their appeal, but it can take up to six months for their appeal to come up.

Freelance NUJ members who are EU members in the UK and who are encountering difficulty getting EU Settled Status should in the first instance contact the Freelance Office about possibly being referred to the NUJ's lawyers. The Mayor of London's EU Londoners Hub and numerous London borough councils are also offering advice to " EU Londoners". The NUJ can - and does - represent its members in legal cases outside the UK and outside Ireland, so members who are UK nationals in an EU member state who are encountering problems getting permanent residence there should also contact the Freelance Office.

  • Our many members who are Italian nationals are reminded that a Parliamentary election is anticipated in Italy soon. Those Italian nationals in the UK who have already registered with the Italian Embassy by the time the President dissolves Parliament and calls an election will be able to vote from the UK in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections in Italy. Details will be on the Italian Embassy website.