Brexit rule forcing EU citizens to reapply for UK residency is illegal, says court | Brexit

Home Office rules that could put millions of EU citizens at risk of losing their jobs or being deported after Brexit have been ruled unlawful by the highest court.

Under the current EU settlement system, EU citizens who were in the country for less than five years before Brexit and who had ‘pre-established status’ are required to reapply to upgrade their status to ‘settled status’ since they have been in the country for 5 years.

If they did not, they would automatically lose their rights to live, work, rent property or access services, including the NHS, under Home Office rules.

But in a judgment handed down on Wednesday in the high court, Justice Lane described the rule as “wrong in law and that the EU settlement system is therefore unlawful” as it “purports to remove the right of permanent residence”.

Lane held that the right to abode can only be lost in very specific circumstances clearly set out in the withdrawal agreement.

Losing rights because someone failed to apply for an upgrade from default status to settlement status was not one of those conditions, Lane said.

Under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA), the UK and the EU agreed that both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU could legally remain in the countries they lived in if they had settled there before Brexit.

However, only the UK and Slovenia required citizens to submit a second residence application if they had been in the country for less than five years, the court said.

According to Home Office rules, if any of those with “pre-settled status” did not apply to upgrade their status to “settled status” after they had been in the country for five years, they would automatically lose their rights to to live, work, rent property or access services, including the NHS. He was also subject to deportation.

Lane said he had “no reason to doubt” that the Home Office would support vulnerable people with pre-settled status, but that the withdrawal agreement “precludes” the Home Office from imposing the requirement for further permission to be in the country as ” condition. for the maintenance of these rights”.

He said: “If the accused is right, a very large number of people face the most serious uncertainty.”

Home Secretary Lord Murray said the Government had undertaken “obligations to secure them [EU citizens’] rights in the UK very seriously. The EU settlement system goes above and beyond our obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, protecting the rights of EU citizens and giving them a route to settlement in the UK.

“We are disappointed by this decision, which we intend to appeal.”

Judicial review of the Home Office’s interpretation of the agreement had been carried out by the Independent Watchdog, a statutory body set up to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

IMA chief executive Catherine Chamberlain said she was “delighted that the judge recognized the significant impact the issue could have had on the lives and livelihoods of pre-settled citizens in the UK”.

“When we brought this judicial review, our intent was to provide clarity to citizens with pre-installed status, of whom there were over 2.4 million when we filed this case in December 2021. This ruling that the current system is unlawful provides that clarity,” she added.

Campaign group the3million said: “We warmly welcome this decision, which protects vulnerable citizens who are granted pre-settlement status under the EU settlement system and who could lose their right to work, rent, travel, benefits, health care and more – just so we don’t have to apply again in future years.

“We are pleased that the judge agrees with 3 million that the purpose of the EU settlement system is to create a clear distinction between those who are beneficiaries of the withdrawal agreement and those who are not. Once they are eligible, people cannot lose their rights simply by forgetting to make a second immigration application to the UK – the withdrawal agreement does not allow that.’

The group, which supported the case, said such a rule would affect some of society’s most vulnerable, including children and the elderly in care, undocumented victims of domestic abuse and those who for one reason or another they led chaotic lives.

According to quarterly Home Office figures in September, 2.7 million of the 6 million EU citizens who were granted status to stay in the UK after Brexit had “pre-determined status”.

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