Midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) from elsewhere in the European Union living and working in the UK have been rightly concerned about what status they will have after the country has left the EU. We have heard from many of you, and have been communicating those concerns to the people charged with negotiating Brexit.
There have been important developments in this area, following the joint report last week between the UK and the EU and the meeting in Brussels this week of the European Council. There is now agreement at the highest level on many of the issues affecting nationals of other EU countries who are living and working here in the UK, and for UK nationals living and working elsewhere in the EU.
The Government has set out what has been agreed, and you can read that in detail on a dedicated webpage. That webpage will be continuously updated once further things are locked in, and there is also a link to sign up to email updates from the Government so you can be amongst the first to hear of any developments.
Let me walk you through the main points though.
Before we start to do that however, it is important to point out to Irish nationals that your right to live and work in the UK (and the right of UK nationals to live and work in Ireland) will be unaffected by Brexit. These freedoms existed prior to either country’s entry into the EU, and there is agreement in the joint report that they should continue after Brexit too.
A key date is 29 March 2019. That is the date on which the UK is expected to leave the EU. That may change, but almost certainly if it does change then it will be pushed back rather than brought forward. But for the moment, let’s assume that the UK leaves on that date.
EU nationals who are resident by 29 March 2019 and who have lived here for five years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting what the Government is calling “settled status”. Those people will be free to live in the UK, enjoy access to public funds and services and, should they wish to do so, go on to apply for British citizenship.
EU nationals who are resident by 29 March 2019, but who won’t have been here for five years, will be able to apply to stay once they have reached the five-year threshold. They will then be able to apply for the same settled status.
Family members who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK by 29 March 2019 will also be able to apply for settled status after five years in the UK.
Close family members (spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren, and dependent parents and grandparents) will be able to join EU citizens after exit under these rules, where the relationship existed on 29 March 2019 and continues to exist when they wish to come to the UK.
EU citizens with settled status and temporary permission to stay will continue to have the same access as they currently do to healthcare, pensions and other benefits.
When assessing applications, the Government will not check that individuals hold comprehensive sickness insurance. Applicants will also not have to account for every trip that you have taken in and out of the UK. The Government also confirms that the Home Office will work with individuals to ensure that their application is not turned down because it has simple errors or is incomplete.
EU citizens who arrive in the UK after its withdrawal on 29 March 2019 will be free to live, work and study in the UK during the period of the proposed transition phase, which is currently expected to last around two years. Their status to remain in the UK after the end of the transition phase is still to be decided, as are the rights of EU nationals who wish to come to the UK after the end of that phase.
This update is aimed at EU nationals in the UK, but there is also a separate webpage for UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU. For nationals of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, who also currently enjoy freedom of movement to the UK, the Government hopes to secure similar arrangements with those countries, but that has not yet been agreed.
We hope that this update helps those EU nationals who have been left in limbo by the vote to leave the EU.
We hope too that it brings clarity and certainty to those nationals of other EU member states who may be considering moving to the UK to work as a midwife or MSW – get in before 29 March 2019 and your status here post-Brexit is secure. The country needs more midwives.
We will post again as and when developments happen. But please do sign up for official updates from the Government to be the first to hear from them, and keep an eye on their dedicated webpage too.