Longer online version

Brexit update - transition to end 31/12/20

A LITTLE more detail is emerging on Brexit, its timetable and how Brexit will affect our EU national members in the UK and our UK national members in the EU. (See our previous Brexit update from 28 February.)

EU flags at a pro-Europe rally in London

EU flags at a pro-Europe rally in London, summer 2017.

The European Commission, the executive of the EU, has agreed a transition timetable for the implementation of "transitional arrangements" after the UK formally leaves the EU (on 11pm on March 29 2019). The transitional arrangements will end on 31 December 2020, which is the end of the EU's budgetary period.

There had been speculation earlier (as voiced by UK Prime Minister Theresa May in her speech in Florence last summer) that the transitional period might last until the end of March 2021, but this no longer seems to be the case.

In a press conference on 19 March, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that the transition to the new relationship with the EU "being sought" by the UK will be completed on the 31 December 2020 date. But a condition of these arrangements is that this "must include (the UK) accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and continuing to allow free movement of people to settle and work until the end of the period."

This is important for EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU as the ECJ jurisdiction guarantees their rights as EU citizens. UK courts will continue to "take account" of existing ECJ rulings until 2027 under arrangements already agreed in principle. (See here.)

It has also been confirmed that "new arrivals" from the EU, settling in the UK for the first time during the transition period ending at the close of 2020, will enjoy the same rights as EU citizens already in the UK. Some EU nationals already in the UK who need to travel back and forth to other EU countries don't actually have much by way of evidence of their original arrival (they didn't need any at the time) so this concession may prove important.

The statement by Barnier aimed to reassure "the 4.5 million citizens, British and European, who are concerned about and worried by Brexit. Citizens, since day one, have been our priority - and that of the European Parliament and the Member States."

Barnier also reminded the UK that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" - the EU could still reject a final Brexit deal with the UK over issues such as EU citizens' rights (and environmental protection as well). The European Parliament pledged back in February that it would "continue fighting" for the rights of EU nationals in UK and UK nationals in Europe. It still threatens to veto the deal at a vote expected in early 2019.

Meanwhile, a Dutch judge at a court in Amsterdam has referred a case brought by five UK national expatriates living in the Netherlands to the ECJ. The action is over their rights as EU citizens, which they say are or will be infringed not only by the UK leaving the EU but by the current uncertainty they are experiencing over their future.

They asked the court whether Brexit would mean they automatically lost their rights as European citizens or whether they would retain them, and if so, under what circumstances.

The Amsterdam court asked the ECJ for an opinion (which it may or may not decide to give). This is, as far as the Freelance can tell, a good thing. Any rulings on this case (which might not be for a couple of years) will have implications for EU nationals everywhere, whether EU nationals in the UK or UK nationals in the EU, with ECJ judgements still affecting UK jurisprudence until 2027 (at least).

The Freelance is in contact with one of the plaintiffs and we hope to have more on this case and its implications, watch this space.

Back in the UK, EU nationals are reminded that the forthcoming local elections on 3 May in London and other municipalities may be their last chance to vote in the UK, and to make it count. You need to register to vote by April 17. Some are predicting big turnouts by EU nationals at the London local elections.

Free advice services for EU nationals in the UK are springing up. The Facebook group UKCEN allows members to post questions to certified immigration lawyers pro bono (for free). There's also the Here for Good service, with free legal advice for EU nationals in the UK. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has proposed setting up a web portal for EU national Londoners to access help on getting "settled status" in the UK.

  • The LFB meeting on Monday 11 June is on a Brexit-related theme. Our speaker is Claudia Delpero, founder and editor of Europe Street News, which covers the relationship between the UK and the EU. Check here for updates.