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Brexit - it happened!

YES, BREXIT has finally happened. The Freelance sends its commiserations.

Pennie Quinton

A pro-EU rally in London in September 2019

The threatened veto of the Withdrawal Agreement by the European Parliament over citizens' rights and environmental protection never materialised. The European Parliament can still – and is more likely to – use the threat of its veto on the trade deal that follows. It is thought the Parliament may well extract concessions – particularly on citizens' rights – as the UK Government desperately tries to conclude a trade deal within the 11-month time frame it has imposed on itself.

Don't panic. Freedom of Movement under existing EU directives will remain in place until 31 December 2020, the end of the Transition Period after Brexit. It’s pretty much business as usual until then. The rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU remain exactly the same until the transition period has finished.

The UK Government has said it will not seek to extend the Transition Period, although it has imposed an 11-month time limit on itself to thrash out a very complicated post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, so it is possible that the period may be extended. It is in practical terms difficult for the EU negotiators to agree an extension beyond that date, as it's the end of the EU’s seven-year budgetary cycle. Keeping arrangements with the UK going until the middle of the EU’s budget cycle would create a lot of serious accounting headaches.

The prospect of the UK crashing out with no deal on 31 December, having failed to agree a post-Brexit trade deal, remains. It is likely, though, that by then everyone will finally have worked out that to do so would damage the UK far, far more than it would the EU.

The status of UK nationals in the EU remains as unclear as ever, beyond what individual EU Member States have unilaterally arranged for UK nationals living there. We've heard that several members of Brussels Branch who are UK nationals have now obtained Belgian (or Irish) citizenship. A Bill that would allow Dutch nationals to keep their Dutch nationality if they obtained British citizenship has been temporarily halted in the Dutch Senate as senators wanted to wait for Brexit to actually happen and to make an assessment of its immediate impact before proceeding with the legislation.

Back in October, the UK Government also said that it would deport EU nationals who fail to register under the EU Settlement Scheme by 31 December 2020, the end of transition period following Brexit. (Shortly before the December general election, the Home Office resumed deportation flights to Jamaica, halted by the Windrush scandal.)

Secondary legislation passed by the UK Government in July that appears to strip EU nationals in the UK of some of their rights to work in self-employment (see the January Freelance) would now appear to affect only EU national freelances who have limited companies. The NUJ is consulting its lawyers on this.

Stand by for post-Brexit revised and updated legal advice from the NUJ for its members in the UK who are EU nationals, which will be out soon. Watch this space.