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Post-Brexit rights of citizens in UK and EU must be a priority, say MPs

By Shaun Connolly, PA Political Correspondent

Protecting the rights of EU citizens must be a priority whether the UK leaves the bloc with a trade deal or not, according to a new report.

A cross-party study by the Commons Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union has called on EU nationals in the UK and British citizens in the 27 bloc states “to live and work in the country where they reside”.

The report insisted UK nationals should have access to information to ensure that they know how to secure their rights.

The committee stated: “The priority must be to ensure as many people as possible understand what they need to do to secure their rights, and that as few as possible are inadvertently deprived of these rights because they did not act in time, or did not know what they had to do.

“The UK Government has been working through embassies and consulates and coordinating outreach events with host governments.

“It has also funded organisations to support UK nationals in the EU through the National Support Fund (NSF).

“The Government needs to monitor the effectiveness of the support provided by the organisations funded through the NSF and set out a strategy for reallocating support and resources where it becomes apparent the demand is increasing.

“This is particularly important in countries which have chosen a ‘constitutive system’ that requires a new application to be made by a specific deadline in order to secure their rights.”

The MPs also called on the Government to monitor and the European Commission to analysis the situation and ensure “unnecessary administrative burdens” are avoided.

The committee stressed that deadlines for UK citizens to apply for resident status should be extended where necessary in the EU.

MPs called on EU states to “take a pragmatic approach to delays, such as where Covid-19 causes a reduction in their capacity to manage applications”.

Labour committee chairman Hilary Benn said: “This is an incredibly important issue that has affected and will continue to affect the lives of millions.

“Both the UK and EU member states have done much to help ensure that the rights of citizens are protected, but with deadlines approaching those who have not yet applied need to know that they must do so.

“That’s why the necessary information must be communicated clearly and comprehensively.

“Whatever happens with the negotiations, nobody who has built a life outside their country of birth should run the risk of being forced to leave simply because they inadvertently slipped through the net by not claiming the rights that are theirs.”

The study said that it was still unclear how many citizens will apply for the EU Settlement Scheme in the UK.

MPs said: “The report acknowledges that the EU Settlement Scheme has now received over four million applications and welcomes the fact that a large percentage of applicants for settled status were successful.

“However, it cautions that the number of EU citizens in the UK who are eligible to apply but have yet to do so remains unknown.

“In addition, the report raises concerns about what happens to those EU citizens who apply after the deadline of June 30 2021 and those who have received pre-settled status, but who then do not apply for settled status when it expires.

“Both situations risk individuals becoming unlawfully resident.

“The Government needs to publish its guidance for caseworkers on how to deal with late applications, and how it will inform citizens with pre-settled status that they are able to apply for an upgrade to settled status.”

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