Brexit - millions still in limbo

OVER FOUR million people are still in limbo over Brexit - including our numerous members who are either non-UK EU citizens living in the UK or UK citizens living in other EU countries. All are still in the same limbo that they've been in since the result of the EU referendum in June last year (despite Limbo proper having been abolished by the Catholic Church some time between the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s and 2007).

EU flags at the European Commission in Brussels; Photo: Matt Salusbury

EU flags at the European Commission in Brussels.

Theresa May during a recent interview with LBC's Iain Dale declined to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK in the event of the UK leaving the EU with "no deal". She told LBC's Iain Dale, "I'm going to be a bit technical, Iain..." She did say, "We're not going to be throwing EU citizens who are currently here in the UK out of the UK in the future."

Foreign Secretary Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, though, went much further, declaring to EU nationals at an October summit on Anglo-Polish relations "Your rights will be protected whatever happens. Yes. You are recording this? Your rights will be protected whatever happens." Pledges by Johnson, though, should probably be taken with a pinch of salt: see his "£350 million a week for the NHS" during the EU referendum campaign.

May's speech in Florence in September clarified that the "transitional period" after the UK is formally expected to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 will last for "at least two years" after that, and subsequent remarks by UK Government figures suggest it will be possibly longer.

During that period of traditional arrangements, the current freedom of movement within the EU will remain, as will the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (colloquially the ECJ) in protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK. EU nationals arriving in the UK from 29 March 2019, however, will start to be "registered" from that date.

The same speech gave assurances that the rights of EU citizens would be written into the actual exit treaty between the EU and the UK. UK courts will "take account of" ECJ judgements on the rights of EU nationals even after the transition period ends sometime after March 2021.

The Freelance talked to Vic Wyman, NUJ Continental European Council's rep on Freelance Industrial Council, and a member of NUJ Brussels Branch. Vic said there wasn't much new advice for UK nationals living and working in Belgium to pass on as there was still no more certainty as to what will happen to them post-Brexit: Vic's comments are here.

Continental social security systems under which self-employed people have to pay large contributions up front may be financially onerous for UK freelances living there, but they also make it easier for them to evidence their continued participation in "the system" in countries that require this, such as Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

  • The new coalition government of the Netherlands confirmed in October that it intends to enact legislation that would allow the 100,000 Dutch citizens living in the UK who wanted to settle here after Brexit would be able to become UK citizens and keep their Dutch citizenship. Currently, Dutch citizens who acquired another nationality were in most cases automatically stripped of their citizenship of the Netherlands.