May’s proposal to complicate the already complex UK Immigration system

Theresa May in her latest statement tried to sell a ‘fair and serious offer’ for the EU Citizens living in the UK by creating a new ID card and to ‘liquidate the Permanent Residence Card’.

The statement has fallen short of expectations. It does not seem “fair” as negotiation has not really started with her counterparts in Europe and the position of Brits living abroad is not taken into account. It does not sound “serious” as the UK legal establishment and immigration professionals still have a say in this revamp of the immigration system

May revealed that the EU citizens living in the UK until a ‘cut off date’ will have to apply for this ID. Such cut off date may happen between 29 March 2017 and March 2019 and will include a period of grace and future immigration controls that we think are a bit confusing. The below chart in section 39 might tell you, what her offer is about:

May is intending to introduce a new “monster” in the already complex UK Immigration System: The ID for EU Citizens. Among the different possibilities there are questions that need to be solved and discussed with the EU. We would like to highlight the following points

  • Apart from being not totally clear, it is not fair to Permanent Residents’ applicants. Citizens who have applied for a Permanent Residence Card and wasted their time and money filling the 85 pages application; Will  they be refunded on the costs of applying for the Permanent Residence Card in addition to apply for this special ID?
  • Is it not the Permanent Residence Card a valid form of ID?; as gov.uk describes the PR card as a biometric card which contains holder’s digital image, name and signature, date and place of birth, nationality,gender, expiry date, number (..) is this not a valid ID?, we understand that the PR is a valid proof of identity.
  • We see a positive step the termination of the long Permanent Residence Card application form (85 pages) and we celebrate the intentions of the UK government to abbreviate and make the process simpler.
  • Also, we cheer, the end of the comprehensive sickness insurance that was required to students or self sufficient people.

Furthermore, clarifying the UK’s position on ECJ applicability, the Section 37 on May’s statement says the following: “After we leave the EU, we will create new UK law for qualifying EU Citizens residents before our exit. Those rights will be enforceable in the UK legal system and we will provide legal guarantees for these EU Citizens” and She has added “The ECJ will not have Jurisdiction in the UK”.

Summarising, Theresa May has made another unilateral statement, which does not provide a clear solution to the freedom of movement and establishment for EU citizens after Brexit — both, in and from the UK— nor specific details were given about the contents and the legal protection of their rights.

Guy Verhofstadt, EU Parliament representative has prudently said, and we agree, “a number of limitations remain worrisome and will have to be carefully assessed”.

Julio Prieto
Spanish Lawyer in London

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