Draft Deal Does Not Change Previously Announced Scheme for Citizens’ Rights or Movement of People

Yesterday, negotiators from the United Kingdom and the European Union agreed to a draft Brexit deal. The proposed withdrawal agreement would replace the one negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May. The new agreement addresses the timetable for a transition period; ongoing rights for citizens of the EU, the “EEA” (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, collectively), and Switzerland who live in the UK; and the amount of money the UK has to pay the EU.1

To take effect, the deal will need to be ratified by UK and EU Parliaments, in that order. The deal will be voted on in the UK Parliament when it sits on Saturday, October 19, 2019. 

In terms of citizen’s rights and the movement of people, including the transition phase to 2021, there is no change to the previous agreement.2 As described in our previous alert Brexit: Steps Employers Should Take Now (September 2019), freedom of movement will continue during the transition until a new immigration framework is introduced in January 2021. The EU Settlement Scheme will remain open until June 2021. If the deal is ratified in Parliament, Brexit could occur as planned on October 31, 2019, provided there is sufficient time to pass the necessary legislation. The UK would then move into the transition phase to the end of 2020. In the event that further time for legislation is required, it is possible a short delay may be sought to allow for this.

If Parliament does not ratify the deal, the UK will either request an extension, possibly to the end of January 2020, presumably to allow for a general election to take place, or a “no-deal” scenario will occur on October 31.  The policy for no-deal remains the same as described in our prior alert:  

  • EEA and Swiss nationals will continue to be admitted freely until the end of 2020.
  • EEA and Swiss nationals wishing to stay beyond the end of 2020 can apply under the European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme.
  • The EU Settlement scheme will be open to all EEA and Swiss nationals who entered on or before October 31 and will remain open for applications until December 31, 2020, and is available now for online enrollment for either settled or pre-settled status, depending on whether the individual has accumulated five years of continuous residence in the UK, at https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status.

1 Trade issues and other aspects of the post-Brexit relationship, which are not addressed in the draft Brexit deal, will need to be addressed in future negotiations.

2 The new deal, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called a “good deal,” is similar to the deal proposed by Prime Minister May. The principal differences in the new deal relate to the Ireland protocol and the intention to seek a free trade agreement with the EU post-Brexit, rather than closer regulatory alignment with the EU. With regard to Northern Ireland and the risk of a so called "hard border" with Ireland, the new agreement envisions a legal customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.