Brexit: ignore Home Office advice not to seek advice

NOW THAT Article 50 has been triggered, what should our many colleagues from other EU (or EEA) countries expect?

Pro-EU rally in London, March 2017

A "No bargaining chips" placard (at left), referring to uncertainty over the status of EU nationals in the UK post-Brexit, at a pro-EU rally in London in March - days before Article 50 was triggered.

The UK government's new Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 in theory give it the power to remove EU nationals in certain circumstances. Any such removals - particularly mass removals - would be practically near impossible. Theresa May has since admitted that freedom of movement is likely to continue "in some form" for a while post-Brexit.

The Home Office has issued advice that EU nationals "do not need to do anything as a result of Article 50 being triggered". However, this is apparently not to be trusted, and appears to be a ploy to avoid having to deal with the considerable paperwork of tens of thousands of EU nationals applying for Permanent Residence (PR). Immigration lawyers advise that "other EU" nationals disregard Home Office advice and take any steps that they can to ensure they can't possibly be booted out come spring 2019. These include, if you're not an employee, registering as a job seeker, registering as self-employed and getting a Unique Tax Reference number from HMRC if you haven't already, and so on. Seek legal advice, say lawyers.

The European Council's recent draft negotiating guidelines have made it clear the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK, as well as the status of UK nationals in what's left of the EU, are a "top priority" in negotiations, "crucial" to the deal.

The EU is demanding that EU nationals who've been in the UK for five years must have the right to reside here for life, even if they are economically inactive (carers, for example). This appears to include any of their future partners joining them, for life. Negotiations between the EU and the UK are currently not going terribly well.

The Council's draft guidelines also demand a "simple and smooth application procedure" for EU citizens to get Permanent Residence, a pointed reference to the current 82-page application form, described by one MEP as "a bureaucratic wall": see www.londonfreelance.org/1706perm.html for more on residence.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament, which has a final veto over the EU-UK exit deal, indicates that one issue over which it plans to exercise its veto is the rights of EU nationals in the UK. Watch this space.