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EU Exit: EEA and Swiss Nationals

Volume 657: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2019

Today the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for Work and Pensions are announcing that, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be no immediate changes to entitlements to access public funds for EEA and Swiss nationals coming to live in the UK after free movement ends and before the new immigration system is introduced in 2021.

“Public funds” is defined in immigration rules and includes a range of services and benefits that are provided by a number of Government Departments, local authorities and service providers. This announcement is pertinent to all spending and service Departments.

On 28 January 2019 the Home Secretary set out the immigration provisions for EEA and Swiss nationals coming to the UK after EU exit in the event of a no deal. The provisions will enable the Government to end freedom of movement but recognise the need for transitional arrangements.

In the event of no deal EEA and Swiss nationals arriving after free movement ends and wishing to stay longer than three months would need to apply for temporary leave to remain which, if granted, would be valid for 36 months.

Our announcement today provides details of the transitional arrangements for access to public funds for this group.

These arrangements will provide certainty to individuals arriving in the UK following the ending of free movement, will minimise disruption, and will ensure that changes are made in a sensible and sustainable way over a period of time.

It is important that, in a no-deal scenario, EEA and Swiss nationals who come to the UK after free movement ends know what their eligibility to access public funds will be. This will be on the same basis as for EEA and Swiss nationals now. They will continue to need to meet any eligibility criteria, for example demonstrating that they are exercising an EU qualifying right to reside, such as a worker or self-employed person. As now, those not exercising a qualifying right will not be able to access certain publicly funded services and benefits.

When an individual’s 36 months temporary non-extendable leave expires, a person wishing to remain in the UK will need to apply and qualify for leave under the new immigration system that will be introduced from 2021 onwards. When individuals move into the new immigration system, or if they otherwise change immigration status, their access to public funds may change. The details on the entitlements that will apply in these circumstances will be subject to further consideration. This may mean that some benefits will cease and that entitlements to some services may end. However, the Government are considering their options and announcements will be made in due course.

We are today publishing a paper entitled access to public funds for EEA and Swiss nationals arriving in the UK after EU exit in a no deal scenario, and I will be depositing copies in the Libraries of both Houses.