Brexit on campus – What should EU nationals expect?

Although the past two years have seen numerous controversies and issues related to Brexit, a constant question has hung over the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.

As an EU national myself, I have spent far too much time on researching the potential obstacles I may face if I were to choose to continue living in this country. In this sense, this article is partly intended as a way how to inform other students from the European Union on what to look out for and how to prepare for Britain’s eventual exit.

While the invocation of Article 50 on March 29th 2017 did not affect our lives instantly, it set Brexit in motion. Despite this the British government had not provided a satisfactory answer on what will happen to the millions of EU nationals living in the country. Indeed, the answer to this vital question seemed as difficult as the UK’s exit from the Union itself.

However, at least to some extent, the future of the 3 million EU nationals living in the UK has been secured by the “Settled System and Pre-settled System”, which was confirmed in June this year.

All EU nationals who have lived in the country before the end of this period would have the right to apply for status, provided they are able to pay £65 on the application.

Those who have lived for five years or more in the UK can apply for ‘Settled Status’. While some individuals may have already received a permanent residence card, they still have to apply for this newly created status, although the permanent residents will get it for free. In many ways, this status is a merely a renamed permanent residence, which allows its holder to become a British citizen.

‘Pre-settled Status’ will be granted to those who have not yet lived in the UK for five years. They will be eligible to apply for ‘Settled Status’ once they reach the five-year point.

Although this may seem simple, it will prove as immensely difficult to implement.

Firstly there is the issue of passing the Government’s ‘Chequers’ plan, which would establish a clear period of the implementation of the ‘Settled/Pre-settled’ system, ending on December 31st 2020. If the government fails to deliver the ‘Chequers’ plan, it is unknown what will happen to the ‘Settled/Pre-Settled’ framework.

Even the method of delivery has ran into problems.

The Government’s failure to create a user-friendly app for the registration of EU nationals, which would work on all mobile devices, has shown that even the simplest of plans may face complications.

In this case, the app was found unable to work on Apple devices. While this may seem as irrelevant, 52 percent of mobile phones in the UK were made by Apple. In other words, EU nationals should be prepared to spend hours handling newly created bureaucracy.

Yet all these plans may not even come to fruition. In the event of not striking a deal with the European Union, a hard Brexit would become a reality. Although it remains in the best interest of both the United Kingdom and all countries in the European Union to strike individual deals in that scenario, the rights of EU nationals will become much less certain.

While there is no need to worry about deportation, non-existent job prospects or having to wait in massive queues at passport control at the airport, it is important to remain informed and up to date. One never knows what will happen in the next months.


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