Post-Brexit rules for millions of European Union citizens living in Britain risk turning residents into illegal migrants overnight, the High Court has heard.
A judge has ruled the Home Office’s European Settlement Scheme (EUSS) to be illegal and based on an incorrect interpretation of Britain’s Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels.
The Home Office said it was disappointed with the decision and intends to appeal.
The case went to the High Court with a challenge by the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA) – the watchdog set up by the government to watch over the rights of EU citizens in Britain after his exit from the union.
Robert Palmer KC, acting for the IMA, told the court that around 2.6 million EU citizens who had obtained “pre-settled status” before the end of the Brexit transition period in 2020 were at risk lose their rights and be treated as “illegal overtaking”. and “liable to detention and removal”.
According to the rules of the Ministry of the Interior, these people will lose all their rights of residence, including the right to work, to rent accommodation and to access health care, unless they reapply for residence. settlement within five years.
In his ruling, Judge Lane said that if the Home Office’s interpretation of the law was correct, “a very large number of people face the most serious uncertainty”.
He added: “If they lose their legal status in the UK, their continued physical presence here will depend on the defendant’s opinion as to whether to apply immigration control by insisting on the removal of the ‘individual.
“Someone who makes a late request for additional authorization will not know whether the defendant will accept the late request.”
It concluded the Home Office misinterpreted the law on the two issues challenged by the IMA – whose case was backed by the European Commission and the3million, a grassroots organization representing EU citizens in the Kingdom. -United.
In a statement after the ruling, IMA chief executive Dr Kathryn Chamberlain said: ‘I am delighted that the judge recognized the significant impact this issue could have had on lives and livelihoods. citizens with pre-established status in the UK.
“When we introduced this judicial review, our intention was to provide clarity for citizens with pre-established status… this judgment that the current system is illegal provides that clarity. We will now liaise with the Home Office on next steps.
Monique Hawkins, head of policy and research at the3million, said: “People can’t lose their rights just by forgetting to reapply for immigration to the UK – the Withdrawal Agreement doesn’t allow that. .”
Home Secretary Lord Murray said: “EU citizens are our friends and neighbours, and we take our obligations to secure their rights in the UK very seriously.
“The EU settlement program goes beyond our obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, protecting the rights of EU citizens and giving them a pathway to settlement in the UK.”