UK and EU negotiators agreed to move Brexit negotiations onto the 'second phase' of discussions following an agreement on 8 December 2017 that 'sufficient progress' had been made on the three key areas of citizens’ rights, the UK’s financial commitments and the Irish border. A joint report was published, outlining an agreement in principle on these three key areas.
While this is not the 'final' Brexit deal (the UK government has stated that 'nothing is agreed until everything is agreed'), the progress made so far should be viewed as a step in the right direction.
Talks on the second phase started in early February 2018. At these talks, UK and EU negotiators will focus on the UK-EU relationship on the two year period after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.
The information below focuses on the progress that has been made in the negotiations so far, and specifically, the 'agreement' reached on citizens' rights. It intends to provide BMA members, and in particular, our members from EU countries who are currently based in the UK, with further information about what the Brexit negotiations mean for them, their family members, and next steps.
Read our blog: Status settled? The outlook on citizens' rights post Brexit
In December 2017, UK and EU negotiators reached an agreement in principle that the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens living in Europe would be granted reciprocal protection following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
These assurances should provide EU citizens with greater confidence about their future in the UK, and more certainty to the thousands of EU nationals working within the health and social care sector about their futures here.
What the agreement means for doctors from EU countries currently in the UK
The agreement will mean that an individual’s rights as currently enshrined in EU law will remain in place until 2019. After this point, these rights will become part of UK law.
This includes the right to bring family to live in the UK. For example, EU citizens living in the UK before the withdrawal date of 29 March 2019 will be able to rely on EU law to bring family members to the UK after withdrawal, as long as their relationship with that family member existed before the 29 March 2019.
EU citizens and their family members in the UK will need to apply for a new immigration status (‘settled status’) as the UK leaves the EU. Getting this new residency status will prove (for example, to employers or public service providers) that they have permission to continue to live and work in the UK, and to access public funds and services in the future.
What will settled status mean for doctors from EU countries currently based in the UK?
- EU citizens, and their family members, remain eligible to apply for permanent residence ("PR") after five years in the UK up until the 29 March 2019.
- EU nationals who have already obtained a PR document will still need to apply for 'settled status' although they will only need to submit evidence to prove their continued residence in the UK for the period since the issue of the PR document. The UK government has confirmed that EU nationals who already have a valid permanent resident document will be able to have their status converted to settled status free of charge.
- EU nationals and their family members who enter the UK before the 29 March 2019 can remain in the UK beyond that date for the required period of five years of residence so that they can apply for 'settled status'. They will however still need to apply for a temporary residence permit during the transitional period.
- EU citizens with 'settled status' can be absent from the UK for up to five consecutive years without losing their residence (double the period allowed under current EU law).
- The Government has said that the process for applying for settled status will be transparent, smooth and streamlined process. Applying for settled status will cost no more than applying for a passport and those who already have a valid permanent resident document will be able to have their status converted to settled status free of charge.
- Application forms are expected be short, simple and user friendly, a principle of 'evidential flexibility' will apply.
The process for applying for settled status
The Home Office will be providing further information on the settled status scheme throughout 2018. EU nationals should be able to apply for settled status from late 2018 onwards as part of a voluntary roll out of the scheme.
In the meantime, EU citizens in the UK can sign up for email alerts and updates from the Home Office about developments on:
- the status of EU citizens in the UK after the UK leaves the EU
- the next steps for EU citizens in the UK
Doctors who are considering coming to the UK after the UK leaves the EU
UK and EU negotiators began discussions on the transition phase in February 2018 and further clarity on the rights of EU nationals arriving in the UK after March 2019 will be clarified in due course.
The UK Government has indicated that during the transitional period, which will start on 29th March 2019, and is expected to last for up to two years, EU nationals will be eligible to enter the UK freely, but will be obliged to register their status.
EU nationals who enter the UK after the 29 March 2019 will be allowed to keep this registered status for a maximum of two years after which they’ll have to apply to remain under new domestic immigration rules which are yet undefined.
Mutual recognition of professional qualifications
We are aware of concerns amongst our EU members about what the Brexit process means for the recognition of their professional qualifications, and their ability to work in the UK in the future.
The agreement in principle, which was reached in December 2017, clarifies that qualifications granted either in the UK or in any other EU member state before 29th March 2019, will continue to be recognised and maintained, despite a change in law.
Further clarification on mutual recognition of professional qualifications gained after 29th March 2019 will form part of the second phase of Brexit negotiations. Greater clarity is expected in due course.