UK scraps plan to end freedom of movement

EU immigration U-turn from new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government. What is the latest on freedom of movement for EU citizens living in the UK?

Arrivals from the EU enter the UK
The UK government has been forced to abandon its plan to end freedom of movement for European Union nationals immediately after a no-deal Brexit.Instead, the Home Office has announced it will reinstate a previous scheme that will grant a three-year 'right to remain' to all EU nationals entering the country between the planned Brexit date of October 31 and the end of 2020.The U-turn came less than a month after the new government led by Boris Johnson announced that freedom of movement would be brought to a halt the moment the UK left the bloc, unless an agreement had been reached with Brussels beforehand.However, business groups, lawyers, migration specialists and lobbyists for the three million-plus EU nationals already in the UK, immediately pointed out it would be impossible for border control officers to differentiate between returning Europeans who had a legal right of residence in the UK and anyone else arriving from the continent.Although the government has introduced its Settled Status scheme, which will guarantee the rights of permanent residence to EU nationals who have been in the country for at least five years, applicants have until the end of 2020 to register under the scheme and, so far, only about a third have done so.

How can HR managers provide better immigration and visa support for their international employees? Find out more

The plan to end freedom of movement was branded "reckless" by the pressure group the3million, which speaks for EU27 nationals in the UK, which said it would result in millions of people who were legally resident in the UK but had not yet applied for settled status, finding their positions thrown into doubt overnight.Announcing the abrupt change in policy this week, the Home Office said in a statement, "After Brexit, EU citizens who move to the UK for the first time will be able to apply for a 36-month temporary immigration status - European Temporary Leave to Remain (TLR). Applications to the new Euro TLR scheme will be simple and free and will be made after arrival in the UK."The "simple online process", a government spokesman added, would involve identity, security and criminal record checks with the new scheme being open to European Economic Area and Swiss citizens, and their "close family" members, who move to the UK for the first time.

Liberal Democrats: EU citizens' rights should be guaranteed permanently in law

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: "The Liberal Democrats have long been warning that Brexit will create another Windrush-style scandal for EU citizens. Kicking the can three years down the road will not prevent it."Instead of taking away the rights of the 3.6 million EU citizens in the UK at the end of 2020, the Conservatives now want to take away their rights at the end of 2023. That’s hardly much better."This plan will only cause huge confusion and uncertainty. How will employers – or even the Home Office – be able to tell who was here before the end of 2020 and who moved here afterwards? That’s why EU citizens are so worried."If Boris Johnson really cared about keeping his promise to EU citizens in the UK, he would pass the legislation the Liberal Democrats have put forward to guarantee their rights permanently in law."

What's the connection between Windrush, EU citizens and Brexit?

In a separate development, the BBC has revealed that more than 800 EU citizens have been granted the right to remain in the UK using a system intended for those affected by the Windrush scandal.The Windrush scheme was set up after people arriving from Commonwealth countries between 1948-71 were wrongly told they were in the UK illegally, despite living in the country for decades. But the application system is open to anyone who arrived, or whose parents arrived, before 1989.And unlike the government's EU settlement scheme, the Windrush scheme provides a physical ID card showing a person's indefinite right to stay. 

Are you an EU citizen living in the UK and did you, or your parents, arrive before 1989? Find out more about the Windrush Scheme

For more news and views on the issues surrounding Brexit, visit our dedicated Brexit section. 

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