04 Sep 2017

Brexit and the Treatment of EU Citizens by the UK Home Office

Elspeth Guild

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Given the acute sensitivity in the Brexit negotiations of the status of EU citizens living in the UK, it is essential that all parties at the table sing from the same song sheet.

While the British Government is seeking to negotiate a good deal for British citizens in the EU-27 and, on the basis of reciprocity, an acceptable deal for EU27 citizens in the UK, the Home Office is busy undermining good faith and trust in the process. Four specific actions by the Home Office reveal this lack of good faith:

  • The Home Office has been sending out letters to EU citizens in the UK threatening them with detention and expulsion irrespective of their status.
  • The Home Office continues to create mind-boggling administrative obstacles to prevent EU-27 nationals from applying for documents proving their immigration status in the UK.
  • The Home Office has reinterpreted national law on citizenship to hinder EU-27 citizens from naturalising or registering as British citizens.
  • The Home Office, with the blessing of the UK courts (so far at least), has determined that genuine relationships and marriages between EU-27 citizens and third-country nationals can nevertheless be classified as marriages or relationships of convenience and thus be treated under national law alone, which condones immediate expulsion with the possibility of an appeal only after the fact.

The status of EU citizens is among the most sensitive issues in the negotiations and a priority to be resolved before the trade discussions begin. It is essential for all parties to take great care to ensure that all the actors on their side of the table are singing from the same song sheet.

Elspeth Guild is Senior Research Fellow at CEPS, a Jean Monnet ad personam Professor of Law at Queen Mary University of London as well as at the Radboud University, Nijmegen the Netherlands. She is also a partner at the London based law firm Kingsley Napley.