As commonly known, the United Kingdom held a public referendum on Thursday 23 June 2016 whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. The UK voted to leave the European Union (the leave camp won by 52% to 48%).
The UK is currently part of the European Single Market whereby the principle of free movement of citizens applies. UK citizens have the right to work in any country part of the European Economic Area (EEA) without a work permit or professional card. The EEA includes all countries in the European Union as well as the countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
On 14 September 2016, at a press conference in Strassbourg, the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker delivered his State of the Union speech in which he emphasised on the fact that there cannot be a Single Market à la carte. The free movement of citizens is part of the Single Market, which means that full access to the Single Market implies an acceptance of the free movement rules. The tone is set.
Prior to the Conference of the Conservative party held in Birmingham on Sunday 2 October, British Prime Minister Theresa May (former UK Home Secretary) confirmed to the BBC that the UK Government will start the formal separation procedure under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty end of March 2017. As of that moment a two years exit negociation period will run, meaning the UK will be expected to have left by the summer of 2019.
The question of the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in EU member states remains, for now, uncertain. The negociation period will clarify the terms upon which the UK’s exit will be executed. High probable, during the period of negociation the free movement of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU will continue until the date of separation.
What are the options for EU and UK nationals in order to preserve the free movement within the EEA area?
Migrabel does advice EU nationals living in the UK and British nationals living in an EEA member country to state in a document their status in order to preserve free movement within the EEA area.
EU nationals living in the UK have the option to
- apply for a registration certificate which is an optional document that EU nationals who wish to register their status in the UK can file. As such, you prove your right to live in the UK as an EU citizen. How you apply depends on your situation. Please look into your specific situation and apply: https://www.gov.uk/eea-registration-certificate/apply.
It is important to underscore that this certificate will not protect you to stay in the UK. The chief civil servant of the UK’s Home Office confirmed on this matter that “EU nationals with a right to permanent residence, which is granted after they have lived in the UK for five years, will be able to stay.”, but that “the rights of other EU nationals would be subject to negotiations on Brexit and the “will of Parliament,”1.
- apply for a permanent residence which is granted after having lived continuously and lawfully in the UK for at least five years. There is no requirement to register for documentation to confirm this status but you can apply for one if you want to prove that you have this right or apply for British citizenship. Please check here to apply: https://www.gov.uk/eea-registration-certificate/permanent-residence.
- apply for naturalisation. There are different ways to become a British citizen. The most common is called ‘naturalisation’. Please check if you are eligible to apply: https://www.gov.uk/becoming-a-british-citizen.
British nationals living in an EEA state have the option
- to consider the permanent residence in an EEA state. Please contact us for more information;
- to consider assuming dual nationality (where permissible). In Belgium, dual nationality is permissible but be aware that you can lose your Belgian nationality under specific circumstances. Please contact us for more information regarding your situation.
1 Wheeler, B. & Hunt, A. (2016, October 2). Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887