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EU nationals currently living in the UK have faced uncertain few weeks since the referendum. Although no major political party has proposed that their rights to remain should be removed, the government has shied away from providing any guarantees. A joint statement issued by the Home Office, Cabinet Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office on Monday afternoon provided only limited reassurance, stating:  "When we do leave the EU, we fully expect that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK… will be properly protected."

On 12 July 2016, a Bill was introduced to the House of Commons proposing to grant existing EU citizens living in the UK the right to remain resident following the UK’s withdrawal. Could this Bill finally provide the certainty EU nationals have been hoping for?

What does the Bill propose?

The EU Citizens Resident in the United Kingdom (Right To Stay) Bill proposes that all EU citizens that were resident in the UK prior to the Brexit vote on 23 June 2016 be granted the right to reside in the UK, regardless of what is negotiated between the UK and the EU.

As a Private Member’s Bill (one not introduced by a government minister), the Bill is normally not printed until close to the second reading debate, which is currently scheduled for 21 October 2016. This means that the specific proposals within the Bill are not currently available. For example, we do not know what type of residency is being proposed, whether that may be the permanent residence or some form of limited residence leading to the permanent residence.

Why was the Bill introduced?

The Bill was introduced by Tom Brake, a Member of Parliament, under the Ten Minute Rule. This allows an MP to make his or her case for a new bill in a speech lasting up to ten minutes. As Mr. Brake was successful, the Bill had its first reading on the same day.

Mr. Brake’s comments on the Bill can be found here as part of Hansard, the UK Parliament’s record of debates. Mr. Brake’s reasoning for introducing the Bill is very clear – he believes that “EU citizens need certainty about their long-term future in the UK, and they need this assurance now before their futures are used as bargaining chips in our negotiations with the EU.”

This is a strong statement and is markedly different from the lack of assurances given by Theresa May in the weeks since the Brexit vote. It is, however, consistent with other prominent voices in the Conservative party, as well as in Labour and other parties who echo Mr. Brake’s sentiments. In fact, the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas is due to introduce a similar bill next week on 20 July. Whether she will go ahead with this in light of Tom Brake’s proposal remains to be seen.

Despite the lack of specifics, the Bill is a positive step towards creating some certainty for EU nationals currently in the UK, and it may also pave the way for other EU member states to make reciprocal assurances towards UK citizens living within their borders.  It may not be made law, but it does demonstrate a political and Parliamentary will to treat EU nationals properly.

What happens next?

The Bill is due to have its second reading on 21 October, so we would expect the full text of the Bill to be available around then. It will be debated in the Commons as part of its second reading before proceeding to the next stages. Fragomen will continue monitoring the passage of the Bill through Parliament and providing updates.