Skip to main content

Brexit: acquired rights report published

14 December 2016

The EU Justice Committee publishes its report on Brexit: acquired rights.

Key findings

The Justice Sub-Committee's report, Brexit: acquired rights, concerns EU citizenship rights. These are fundamental rights under EU law to live, work, study, and raise a family in an EU Member State of one's own choosing.

There was much talk before the referendum that these rights would somehow be protected as "acquired rights". This was misleading. If the UK wants to preserve certain EU rights on withdrawal, it will have to ensure they are safeguarded in the withdrawal agreement.

The majority of the safeguarded rights are likely to be reciprocal with EU rights. The report recommends that a mechanism be established to ensure that UK law can take account of relevant developments in EU law, and, importantly, that EU law can take account of relevant developments in UK law. The report points to a precedent for this type of judicial cooperation.

  • If EU citizenship rights are not safeguarded the consequences will be severe: EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in other EU Member States could lose their right to live and work in their country of choice.
  • EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in other EU Member States are, unsurprisingly, deeply anxious about their futures. The Government should give a unilateral guarantee now that it will safeguard the EU citizenship rights of EU nationals in the UK when the UK withdraws from the EU. The overwhelming weight of the evidence the Sub-Committee received points to this as morally the right thing to do.
  • Failing this, there is a strong case for agreeing EU citizenship rights as a preliminary and separate element of the negotiations as soon as Article 50 is triggered.

The Sub-Committee received evidence suggesting that many EU nationals who have been in the UK for over five years - the minimum requirement for permanent resident under EU citizenship rules - may not be able to prove that they meet the criteria for permanent residence as an EU citizen. The report asks the Government to explain whether this consideration will influence the decision it makes on the cut-off point for deciding which EU nationals in the UK are given a permanent right to reside after Brexit.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto