13 Nov 2019

The EU press release confirms that the Brexit Steering Group met with several committees to consider the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) on citizen's rights. The focus was on the implementation in the UK and in the EU-27 of the citizens' rights provisions contained within part II of the WA. 

A number of aspects of the UK's EU Settlement Scheme were highlighted, including the possible consequences for EU citizens who fail to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before the application deadline, see below. It is reported that the Brexit Steering Group will continue to examine these issues with the new UK government. 

The objective of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-20 (WAB) was (amongst other matters), to implement the UK's commitments under the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement into UK law, the effect of which would have been to ensure that all rights, obligations, remedies etc arising under it would have been available in UK domestic law. On 22 October a number of 'bill factsheets' were published, including on citizen's rights. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, from exit day until 31 December 2020 the (implementation period) EU citizens will have the same rights in the UK as they did before the UK left the EU. Further the Withdrawal Agreement provides that EU citizens and their family members living in the UK at the end of the implementation period with the right to continue to stay in the UK for a period of 6months (the grace period), in which they will be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. 

The WAB was introduced to the House of Commons on 21 October 2019, but it fell when parliament was dissolved on 6 November 2019. That means that there is currently no legal mechanism to give effect in UK law to the UK's obligations under the new Withdrawal Agreement and Political declaration dated 19 October 2010 (the Withdrawal Agreement), which were considered and agreed at European Council on 17 October 2019. 

If, following the 12 December general election, the UK is to leave the EU with a deal (on the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, or a withdrawal agreement), then in the new Parliament that follows the general election, the new government will need to introduce another bill (WAB2 perhaps?), to ratify the terms of the relevant agreement. Failure to pass a ratifying bill would mean that the UK would not have implemented the terms of a withdrawal agreement in UK law; that would be a 'no deal' situation.