Supreme Court says post-Brexit EU settlement plan could create illegal immigrants

The Supreme Court has said that for the millions of European Union citizens living in the UK, post-Brexit rules risk turning residents into illegal immigrants overnight.

A judge ruled that the Home Office’s EU Settlement Plan (IUSS) was illegal and based on a misinterpretation of the UK’s withdrawal agreement with Brussels.

The Home Office said it was disappointed with the decision and plans to appeal.

The case was taken to the High Court with the objection of the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA), the watchdog established by the government to protect the rights of EU citizens after the UK left the union.

Acting on behalf of IMA, Robert Palmer KC told the court that about 2.6 million EU citizens who were granted “pre-resident status” before the end of the Brexit transition period in 2020 risk losing their rights and being treated as “illegal surpluses”. and “subject to arrest and deportation”.

According to the Ministry of the Interior’s regulations, if these persons do not apply for another settlement within five years, they lose all their right of residence, including work, renting a house and access to health services.

Mr Justice Lane said in his decision that if the Home Office correctly interpreted the law, “a very large number of people would face the most serious uncertainty”.

He added: “If they lose their legal status in the UK, their continued physical presence there will depend on the accused’s view of whether immigration control will be enforced by insisting that the individual be deported.

“The person who applies for leave late does not know whether the defendant will accept the late application.”

It concluded that the Home Office had misinterpreted the law on both issues contested by IMA, whose case is supported by the European Commission and 3million, a grassroots organization representing EU citizens in the UK.

A poster encouraging EU citizens to apply for ISCED during the transition period (AFP/Getty)

A poster encouraging EU citizens to apply for ISCED during the transition period (AFP/Getty)

In his statement after the decision, IMA CEO Dr. Kathryn Chamberlain said: “I am pleased that the judge recognizes the significant impact this issue can have on the lives and livelihoods of citizens with formerly resident status in the UK.

“While we brought this judicial review, our aim was to bring clarity to the citizens with settled status… The judgment that the current system is unlawful provides this clarity. Now we will be in contact with the Ministry of Interior for the next steps.”

Monique Hawkins, head of policy and research at the3million, said: “People cannot forfeit their rights by forgetting to apply for a second immigration to the UK – the withdrawal agreement does not allow for that.”

Home Secretary Lord Murray said: “EU citizens are our friends and neighbors and we take our obligations to ensure their rights in the UK very seriously.

“The EU Settlement Plan goes beyond our obligations under the withdrawal agreement, protecting the rights of EU citizens and giving them a pathway to settlement in the UK.”

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