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What fate for Brits in EU if there's No Deal?

WITH JUST 25 days to go till Brexit (subject to possible delay) as we write, what's going to happen to our UK national members in the EU as a possible No Deal Brexit looms? At the time of writing, whether there is a deal, a delay or no deal is too close to call.

Most of the individual EU member states have already made or are now busy with contingency planning for Brexit - generally much better planning than the UK's. The Freelance is doing its best to keep up with this.

See our update of 27 January which covers what we've been able to find out at the time. This covers Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland (the latter outside the EU, but with free movement between the Confederation and the UK governed by an EU treaty).

Since then we've heard that Malta has announced UK nationals there will be given a "special immigration status" which will grant them access to the labour market for the next decade. The Prime Minister of Cyprus had pledged to safeguard UK nationals' "rights of residence and access to benefits on the same terms as they presently enjoy" even in the event of no deal Brexit. Portugal has announced a 21-month grace period to apply for a residency permit. Finland is expected to make an imminent announcement.

UK nationals in the Netherlands can expect letters from the Immigration and Naturalisation Service soon. These will serve as temporary residence permits: Brits have 15 months to apply for a longer-term version.

UK nationals in Austria face the strictest post-Brexit conditions we've heard of - they'll need to apply for a Residence Declaration as soon as possible and they risk being treated as non-EU "third country nationals" in the event of a no-deal Brexit. UK nationals in the Netherlands can expect letters from the Immigration and Naturalisation Service soon. These will serve as temporary residence permits: people have 15 months to apply for a longer-term version.

Swedish employment lawyers now warn that most UK nationals won't be eligible for Sweden's work permits for non-EU workers once these come into force.

UK nationals should theoretically be able to continue living and working in the Republic of Ireland. But whether or not the Common Travel Area agreement between the UK and Ireland - which predates the EU - will have any legal validity in the event of no deal remains complicated. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Republic and the UK in February on social security was concluded, and there's an Immigration and Social Security Bill before the Westminster Parliament to iron out any possible bits not covered by existing agreements, although the words "before the Westminster Parliament" do not bode well in the current climate.

Also, there's now a reciprocal deal between the UK and European Economic Area countries Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland on citizen's rights.

The responses of the various Member States to the prospect of no deal range from legislation actually being enacted to ensure some sort of legal status that will allow UK nationals to live and work there in a possible no-deal scenario to vague assurances made by people in government. In same cases, all we've heard is a UK Ambassador telling the Press that somebody in government has told them it'll all be OK, which unfortunately we can safely ignore. (UK ambassadors have no influence on domestic legislation, while a diplomatic source pointed out the Freelance that it's a very long time since an ambassador had the experience of standing in a queue to get a passport or visa.)

Expect some fast-moving developments. Good sources of up to date information include Europe Street News and the website of immigration lawywers Fragoman. In the event of a final withdrawal agreement being concluded between the EU and the UK, the package of citizens' rights is likely to be much better (and clearer) that those detailed here.

We haven't found any specific references to the self-employed in any announcements yet. It seems most EU Member States are working on the basis of EU treaties and directives that give equal status to employment and self-employment or any evidence of "economic activity", with a much more generous definintion that the UK tax people or the Department of Work and Pensions use.

For the latest on the EU Settlement Scheme for which our EU national members in the UK will have to apply, see the recent advice from the NUJ's lawyers. Watch this space for details of possible NUJ "Dr Brexit" advice sessions, which may include our UK national colleagues in the EU as well as our EU national colleagues in the UK.

  • Watch for updates on the Freelance website www.londonfreelance.org/fl and note that the Freelance is not qualified to give legal advice.