The results of the referendum are in and UK has voted to leave the EU with 52% majority. David Cameron has pledged to resign from his post as a prime minister in October this year, in time for the Conservative Party conference. Many people are confused as to the immediate repercussions of the result on the EU nationals living in the UK.
Possible Outcomes of the Brexit Vote
In a nutshell, there will not be any immediate changes as a consequence of the referendum vote, at least until October this year.
In order to change/repeal the law of the UK, the Parliament must enact it through the correct legislature process. As stated in our previous article on Brexit, the UK will have to give notice of its intention to leave by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union. This will commence a period of renegotiations with the European Union on the terms of the exit. David Cameron, who will resign as a Prime Minister during the conservative conference in October, said that Article 50 notice will not be given immediately and not until the new leader is elected in October this year. Therefore, UK will remain of the EU and continue to abide by the EU treaties and laws at least until October 2016 and thereafter, during the negotiation period, if Article 50 is invoked.
If the new Prime Minister decides to trigger Article 50 to start a 2 year renegotiation period with the European Union., nothing is likely to change until the 2 year renegotiation period is over. Free Movement right will only cease and the UK will no longer be subject to the EU laws upon the end of the renegotiation period, if no alternative arrangement is reached.
It was mentioned by some contingent of the Leave camp that the UK may, instead of giving Article 50 notice, simply repeal the EU law or perhaps arrange another referendum. It doesn’t look very likely at this stage, as David Cameron has already informed the public that Article 50 will be triggered. The results of the referendum are very far reaching politically and economically and it would, in our view, equate to a political suicide if this route is followed. However, as this referendum has shown, nothing is certain. There is a possibility that once a new leader of the Conservative party is elected, he may decide that it may be beneficial to go down this route instead.
Another option is that UK may decide to stay as part of the EEA in a similar way to Switzerland and Norway. If that happens, all the EU laws will continue to apply and there will be no change to free movement rights of the EU nationals and their family members. However, this route now appears unlikely. The immigration issue was the stumbling block during the referendum campaign, so should the UK decide to remain part of the EEA instead, it would mean continued payments to the EU with no voting rights, no control over the EU laws that will be implemented in the UK and continued rights of free movement. Which is practically speaking, could be considered a much worse arrangement than the UK had before the Leave vote.
How will the EU nationals be affected?
EU nationals who have confirmed their right of Permanent Residence by submitting a relevant application will not be affected in any way whatever route UK follows. With regard to all other EU nationals, most certainly some kind of arrangement will be put in place to protect their status. There are currently more than 3 million EU nationals residing in the UK who have never made any application to confirm their status, as it was not mandatory under the EU law.
The UK may also decide to go through the route of introducing “transitional arrangements” for EU citizens who are already resident in the UK, meaning that they could in theory continue to reside here without any difficulties, but instead introducing stricter immigration controls on the new arrivals.
After the negotiation period is complete, which now seems the most likely route that UK will take to leave the EU, there is every possibility that EEA Regulations may be incorporated into the UK law, with some changes taking place. For example, family members of EU nationals may no longer receive preferential treatment for their applications and the rules may be brought in line with those for family members of British nationals. It may also become significantly harder for EU nationals to obtain settlement in the UK.
In the circumstances and for the avoidance of any doubt, Edmans & Co are advising EU nationals who are eligible for permanent residence, to submit their applications before October 2016. For EU nationals who are not eligible for PR, it may be a good option to submit an application for Registration Certificate to confirm their status in the UK.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. Edmans & Co would be pleased to provide additional details or advice about specific situations.