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EU families to fall through Brexit cracks despite settled status agreement


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I’ve blogged previously about my concern for EU citizens falling through the cracks in terms of their post-Brexit residence and citizenship rights. Some of these worries are now articulated in a more formal way in two legal briefings undertaken for the Eurochildren in Brexiting Britain project at the University of Birmingham.

I argue that there are a number of serious problems facing EU families in the UK after Brexit. Prior to Brexit these problems already existed but were largely hidden. They could be fudged or overlooked because these cracks were smoothed over by ongoing rights of free movement.

After Brexit, the cracks will be exposed, some EU citizens and family members will fall through those cracks and others will be forced to make uncomfortable binary choices.

One briefing addresses the citizens’ rights agreement that has been negotiated with the European Commission and set to be implemented in the UK by the “settled status” scheme. The other looks at the possibility of EU citizens acquiring British nationality. Both highlight the particular difficulties for children, whose immigration status is dependent on their parents.

It is likely that substantial numbers of EU citizens do not acquire the new temporary and settled statuses. Where this happens, they and potentially their families will become unlawfully resident.

They will face hostile environment measures, exploitation in the labour and housing markets and ultimately, removal from the UK. Still more will face obstacles acquiring British citizenship.

The papers can be read here. This work was made possible by Dr Nando Sigona, who leads the Eurochildren project, and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) which funded it as part of The UK in Changing Europe initiative.


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Colin Yeo

Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.