UK’s residency plan for EU citizens ‘illegal’ – POLITICO | Daily News Byte

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LONDON – The UK Home Office is acting illegally by stripping EU citizens of residency rights if they fail to apply twice for the right to stay in the UK after Brexit, a senior judge has ruled.

The High Court of England and Wales ruled on Wednesday that EU citizens who lived in Britain before Brexit can lose their right of residence only in very specific circumstances, which are clearly defined in the EU-UK withdrawal agreement. This should not include failure to upgrade from so-called “pre-permanent” to “permanent status”.

Under the UK’s current system, citizens of the bloc who settled in Britain before Brexit for less than five years can apply for “pre-settled status”, which allows them to retain their right to live, work and access UK public services such as education. .

The government then requires these people to make another application within five years of being granted this “pre-permanent status”, either for full, so-called “permanent status” or for a longer period of pre-permanent status. If they fail to apply for either, the Home Office considers them to be in the UK illegally and they are no longer entitled to exercise their rights of residence, such as access to health care or the right to work.

A year ago, the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA), Britain’s watchdog for the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britain in the EU, launched judicial review proceedings against the Home Office’s policy, arguing that it failed to uphold the rights of EU citizens. Lived in Britain for less than five years before Brexit.

Lord Justice Lane found that the Home Office was acting unlawfully by imposing a requirement to upgrade residence status, and said that people granted pre-settled status were entitled to permanent residence in the UK after living in the country for the required five years. duration

The policy has been a source of bad blood between the UK government and the European Commission, which last February accused the UK of dividing EU citizens into two groups and being less generous with them than the Brexit divorce deal required.

More than 2 million citizens of EU and European Economic Area countries have been granted pre-settled status. Unless the policy is changed, they will risk losing their rights from August 2023, when the first pre-settled status is set to expire.

But if the ruling is confirmed, the government could be forced to change its EU settlement scheme to prevent that scenario.

Home Office Minister Simon Murray said the department was “disappointed by this ruling” and wanted to appeal.

“EU citizens are our friends and neighbors and we take our responsibilities to protect their rights in the UK very seriously. The EU Settlement Scheme goes above and beyond our obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, protecting the rights of EU citizens and giving them a way to settle in the UK,” he said.

Monique Hawkins, policy and research officer at 3 Million, a group campaigning for the rights of EU citizens in the UK, welcomed the ruling.

She said the ruling was meant to “protect vulnerable citizens who have been granted pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme, and who may lose their right to work, rent, travel, benefits, healthcare and more – simply for not applying further. Next years.”

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