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Citizens' rights: Five takeaways

Citizens' rights: Five takeaways

by BB 2 min. 08.12.2017 From our online archive
Agreement outline plans for citizens' rights after UK leaves EU
British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a press conference setting out the deal on Britain's exit from the EU. (AFP)

Britain and the European Union have reached an agreement to protect citizens' rights after the UK leaves the bloc in March 2019.

The rights of UK citizens in the EU and vice-versa of EU citizens in the UK after Britain withdraws in March 2019 was one of the thorny issues that plagued the first phase of Brexit negotiations – alongside the financial settlement and the Irish border.

The two sides have now reached a "common understanding" on citizens' rights.

For the 7,000 British citizens in Luxembourg, the details of the agreement will affect how they continue to live their lives in the Grand-Duchy.

Here are five key points from the agreement.

Withdrawal date

Any UK citizens who legally reside in the EU, or any EU citizens who legally reside in the UK, on the date of the UK's withdrawal, as well as their family members who are also resident at that time, will have their rights guaranteed under the withdrawal agreement.

However, the Commission said the date should be at the end of any transitional period, as no rights would change during that phase, so it could be later than March 2019.

Family members

Spouses, legal partners and children and dependent family members are entitled to join the EU citizen or UK national even if they were not resident at the date of the UK's withdrawal.

The Commission said this would protect the current rights of spouses, partners, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren and a person in a durable relationship to move in the future.

A UK citizen with a long-term partner in Luxembourg, and vice-versa, will be able to become resident subject to national legislation if the relationship "existed and was durable" on the date of the UK's withdrawal.

However, future partners and spouses who are not yet in a relationship on the withdrawal date will have to wait until the second phase of negotiations.

Cross-border workers

In Luxembourg, a major source of concern has been the rights of UK citizens living over the border in, say, France, but working in the Grand-Duchy.

The agreement specifies that "frontier workers" are covered so long as the "as they retain the status of a frontier worker in the State of work".

"Such workers retain the rights they currently enjoy to enter and to work in the State of work," it states.

"The rights they enjoy in their country of residence, including the right to work, are similarly protected."

Residence documents

Both in the UK and the European Union, nationals can be required to apply for residence documents conferring the rights under the withdrawal agreement.

The document states administrative procedures for applications will be "transparent, smooth and streamlined". 

Costs must not exceed that imposed on nationals seeking similar documents.

Permanent residence, benefits

Permanent residence will be granted after five years of residence.

People who acquire permanent residence rights in the UK or an EU state where they live under the withdrawal agreement will be able to leave for a maximum period of five years without losing their rights.

Citizens will also maintain their right to healthcare, pensions and other social security benefits.