Free movement will not end on 31 October 2019

The government caused panic among EU citizens living in the UK when it recently declared that free movement for EU citizens would end overnight on 31 October 2019 if the UK left the EU without a deal. Suddenly the original no-deal plan - that EU citizens would still be able to enter the UK for three months – was dead. EU citizens already living here did not know how they would get back into the UK. For example, what if they went on holiday? Those planning on coming after 31 October 2019 would face – what? No one was sure but that is what happens when a government makes manipulative, ill-considered, publicity-seeking announcements.
However, this weekend’s Sunday Times reported a U-turn by the government. We are now back to the original no-deal plan for 31 October 2019.

So free movement will, in theory, end on 31 October if there is no deal. EU citizens will still be able to enter the UK freely after this date, however. There are restrictions – new entrants will only be able to stay for three months. If they want to stay longer they will have to apply for ‘temporary leave to remain’ in the UK in order to work or study for example. This might be an online registration type application. The leave would not lead to permanent settlement.

Under the original no-deal plan, employers and landlords for example would not be expected to carry out immigration checks on EU citizens until 2021. We have to hope that is the case, otherwise there will be chaos.

Employers must ensure their workers have the right to work in the UK. How are employers going to know how long an EU citizen has been here? How will they tell the difference between a newly arrived EU citizen and one who has lived here for years but has not yet obtained pre-settled or settled status?

The detail of our immigration laws impact on people’s lives. This government seems to have no grasp of details. As a result, this risks creating real problems for EU citizens caught up in this mayhem.

Our advice to EU citizens and their families already here – get yourself pre-settled or settled status before 31 October 2019. Or, even better, go the old-style route and apply for a Permanent Residence Card.

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