EU nationals who come to the UK during the post-Brexit transition period, after March 2019, will be offered the choice to settle, the government has said.
Following the European Commission's publication of its draft withdrawal treaty this morning, the UK government said in a policy paper that any new arrivals to the UK from around two years after Brexit will be eligible for indefinite leave to remain.
This effective extension of free movement of people is believed to be a compromise to the EU's stance. However the length of any transition period has not yet been agreed – the EU wants it to last until December 2020, while the UK has said it should extend two years from March 2019.
Anyone arriving in the UK after the 29 March 2019, when Brexit officially begins, will have to register with the authorities if they want to stay longer than three months, the government has said. After another five years, they will then qualify to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Meanwhile EU citizens who have already been living in the UK for five years by the Brexit date will be able to stay by applying for "settled status". Under EU free movement rules, they will also be able to bring family members to join them.
But in a major change, when the transition period ends, people settled in the UK will no longer be able to automatically bring in family. Instead, the current rules which apply to UK citizens being joined by a non-EU individual will apply – including the minimum income requirement placed on the UK citizen.
The Home Office is encouraging other EU states to enforce similar rules regarding British citizens in their countries, after the draft withdrawal treaty made it clear that those individuals could lose their rights to live or work in a third EU state.
But the development may raise as many problems as it solves. The UK has said that any EU citizens arriving in the transition period will have their rights defined solely by UK courts, not by way of reference to the European Court of Justice. This is likely to be a major sticking point with European Commission.