'Five-year rule' could banish EU expats from UK

More than half a million EU citizens currently living in UK might not be entitled to permanent residency by the time UK leaves the bloc, according to a think-tank analysis.

City of London
The Social Market Foundation has found that, under existing EU rules, only those who have lived continuously in a leaving member state for at least five years have an automatic right to reside at the time an exit is finalised.On the assumption that a Brexit becomes a done deal in early 2019, the think-tank calculated that, while that more than 80 per cent of the 3.55 million EU citizens currently in the UK would meet the five-year criterion, as many as 590,000 would not."Given the likely protracted nature of Brexit, it is probable that all EU citizens arriving in the UK before 2014 and continuing to reside here will have permanent residency rights by the time Brexit actually occurs," said the analysis. "Because the 'five-year rule' is EU law it would be very difficult for the UK government to rescind it before formally leaving the EU. Negotiations over residency rights may be important to certain EU countries in particular. For instance, the UK has a strong interest in the rights of its citizens in countries where large numbers reside. Similarly, other EU countries with a large number of citizens residing in the UK have a strong interest in future UK residency rules.”"However, the countries that may have the strongest interest in future UK residency rules are not necessarily the ones that one might be expected. Despite having large numbers residing in the UK, Poland has a relatively high proportion of its citizens with a permanent right to reside. By contrast, it is some of the older EU countries – notably Spain, Greece and Italy – that join Romania and Bulgaria as having large proportions of citizens without a permanent right to reside in the UK."

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Industry and business bodies and many politicians in Britain have called on the government to guarantee EU citizens already in the UK the right to remain after Brexit but ministers are unwilling to make such an undertaking until the rights of Britons living on the continent are similarly guaranteed. And the government's determination to end the free movement of people could hinder such negotiations.Emran Mian, director of the Social Market Foundation, said: "The government should now provide its own analysis and articulate a plan for starting discussions. Until it does, EU residents living in the UK, the businesses which employ them and the communities in which they live, are subject to uncertainty which will become more worrying as time goes on."A government spokesman in London said: "At present, the UK remains in the EU. This means that European Economic Area, Swiss and UK nationals continue to have the same rights and status that they had before the referendum. The government wants to be able to guarantee the legal status of EU nationals who are living in the UK, and we are confident that we will be able to do this. But we must also win the same rights for British nationals living in European countries."