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27 Feb 2017

May ends free movement for EU citizens

Theresa May will announce, most likely in mid-March, the end of free movement for every new European Union citizen who wants to migrate to the United Kingdom. In the same day she is expected to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon which will mean the official start of the difficult negotiations between the UK and EU.

The British prime minister, according to UK newspapers, will say that, after triggering Article 50, EU citizens will lose the right to stay in Great Britain permanently. Information that the Guardian and the Telegraph acquired says that a new visa regime will be introduced and that there will be a restricted access to benefits for the applicants. May is expected to give a promise that the rights of EU citizens already in the UK are going to be protected as long as the rights of British citizens living in the EU will be protected.

Government sources tried to re-assure that nothing yet has been finalized but they also did not deny anything about the predicted dates. Speculations talk about a possible 5-year visa that will give the right to EU citizens to work but will deny them any chance of getting benefits. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary of May’s cabinet talked on ITV and said that he could confirm that freedom of movement as it is known will change totally. Iain Duncan Smith, a former cabinet member and a Eurosceptic, referred to May as the prime minister that wants to take the control of the UK borders back and she wants to have the high ground for this operation.

Theresa May’s move is going to bring her at odds with the European Union. High ranking EU officials have tried to convince the British government to postpone the cut-off date but to no avail. Around 1.2 million British citizens are living in the EU and their fate will be decided by Brussels. The European Parliament has suggested that the EU could offer the British citizens the chance to opt in and remain European citizens.

At the same time an analysis from the Liberal Democrats indicates that more than 25% of the EU citizens are having their applications for permanent residency in the UK rejected since the referendum in 23rd June. Government’s migration data show that, in the last 2 quarters of 2016, 800 applications have been refused and some 5,500 have been declared invalid. This kind of percentage means that if the British government asked all EU citizens to make an application for permanent residency, almost 800,000 would have to face uncertainty concerning their future there.

A spokesman from the Home Office stated that it would be wrong to draw conclusions from this research. He said that “refusal rates have not changed significantly from last year and a lot of applications are rejected because of lack of papers or unpaid fees”. It is a certainty that conditions and rules concerning migration to the United Kingdom are going to change totally in the years to come.