A court ruling on Wednesday (December 21) ruled that the UK government’s European Settlement Scheme for EU citizens living in the UK is illegal.
This provision means that EU nationals currently living in the UK in a pre-settled situation are entitled to permanent resident status. However, the government announced that it would appeal.
Home Secretary Simon Murray said after the ruling: “EU citizens are our friends and neighbors and we take our commitments to securing their rights in the UK very seriously,” but added: “We are disappointed by this ruling, which we will appeal.”
The scheme, which was introduced in 2018, should allow EU citizens to live and work there even after the UK leaves the EU. About 50 per cent of the nearly seven million EU citizens who have applied under the scheme have been granted settled status, which gives them permanent resident status in the UK.
However, more than 40 percent were granted pre-settlement status, which gives them residency for only five years, but equal access to welfare and other government perks, after which they have to reapply.
If they do not submit their application on time, they automatically lose their right to work, housing, education, and social services, and they run the risk of being deported.
During a judicial review hearing on November 1 and 2 at the Royal Courts of Justice, the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA) – the regulator set up to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK – argued that it was illegal if citizens lost their rights if they failed to apply for established status or, in certain circumstances, to re-apply for pre-incorporated status before their status expires.
In his final ruling, Lord Justice Peter Lane found that the requirement to make a second application was “legally incorrect” and that people who were granted pre-settlement status had the right to reside permanently in the UK once they applied for residence there. Resided for the required five years.
Rhys Davies, IMA General Counsel, said: “We wanted to avoid the risk that previously settled nationals who fail to apply a second time after their presettled status has ended after five years in the UK will lose their lost rights.”
“The closest that could happen is August 2023, five years after the first award of prepaid status,” he added.
The UK government will appeal the decision, but if it is upheld, the government will have to change the law. However, in the meantime, the law remains unchanged and people with pre-settlement status are still bound by the current regulations.
The British Home Office has stressed that the settlement program should not provide the same rights as freedom of movement.
“The EU Settlement Scheme goes beyond our obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement by protecting the rights of EU citizens and providing them with a path to residence in the UK,” Murray said.
The government also argued that the settlement scheme was more generous than the UK was legally required to and that the European Commission was aware that EU citizens with pre-settlement status would have to make a second application for permanent residence.
[Bearbeitet von Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor]
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