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Parallels and differences between ending Commonwealth and EU citizen free movement, Eurochildren Research Brief Series, no.4

Yeo, Colin; Sigona, Nando; Godin, Marie

Brexit presents a similar policy dilemma to that of the ending of Commonwealth immigration in the 1960s and 1970s. The determination to end free movement of people creates a need to distinguish between EU citizens currently resident in the UK and EU citizens who might wish to come to the UK at a later date.

In the 1960s and 1970s the UK government decided to follow a declaratory route and simply continue the lawful residence of existing residents by operation of primary legislation. There was no need for existing residents to apply for a new immigration status. Today, the UK government has decided to force currently resident EU citizens who want to remain lawfully in the UK to apply for immigration status.

Failure to apply for Settled Status will lead to a lawful EU resident becoming an unlawful resident as soon as the application deadline expires. This would impact negatively also on dependent children whose status relies on the parents applying on their behalf.

The problem faced by the Windrush generation was surviving in the modern hostile environment when lawfully resident but without documentary proof. The problem faced by resident EU citizens who do not apply for immigration status is arguably worse: unlawful residence and therefore the accidental commission of ancillary criminal offences such as illegal working, renting accommodation without possession of the right to rent and driving without immigration status.

The system of forcing EU residents to apply for Settled Status by a deadline ameliorates one potential problem — lots of lawful residents lacking proof of their lawful status — but creates arguably a worse problem: a significantly sized population of residents who are literally unlawful as well as undocumented

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