The 29th of March 2019 has been an important date marked in the diaries of millions of UK and EU citizens. However, the events of last night may mean that this date is likely to change.
The Prime Minister’s deal has suffered two significant defeats in the Houses of Commons and has been subject to a preliminary Speaker’s ruling potentially preventing it from returning to the House without substantial changes. This has meant that the Prime Minister has not been able to bring her deal back this week and instead went to the EU to seek a short extension until 30 June 2019. The EU did not agree to this extension but has instead offered two possible extensions; an extension until 12 April 2019 if the Prime Minister’s deal fails again next week, or until 22 May 2019 if the deal passes.
The dates of both of these extensions have a strategic purpose; the extension to the 12th April allows the UK exactly two more weeks from the 29th to consider alternatives should the Prime Minister’s deal fails. The aim is to prevent an accidental no-deal on the 29th. The extension to the 22nd May allows the UK to legislate, which it has fallen behind, to prepare itself for Brexit with a deal. However, the 22nd of May is a month earlier than the 30th of June as the EU wants the UK to either leave before the EU elections in May or take part in these elections if the UK were to leave after that date.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the late change in dates is that of references to ‘Exit Date’ which is defined as 29 March 2019 in the EU Withdrawal Act. The UK will have to act very quickly to change this date. However, it may wait until the results of the further vote on the Prime Minister’s deal on Monday to decide whether this date is going to be April or May. This is four days from the current exit date and therefore we can expect a lot of legislative and parliamentary activity next week. However, what is unfortunate is that it has been left too late. This leaves a lot of business and individuals, especially EU citizens in a great deal of uncertainty.
For a lot of EU Citizens in the UK, or planning to become a UK resident in the UK in the short-term, it may be ideal to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme now to prevent the ongoing uncertainty. This will secure their status in the UK regardless of what happens in Parliament next week. Employers may also want to encourage their EU national workers to apply under this Scheme.
Note: The EU Settlement Scheme will remain open to EU workers who have become resident by 29 March 2019 (no deal) or 31 December 2020 (if there is a deal). The Exit date of 29 March 2019 is likely to change considering the EU’s proposal for a short extension but this has not been updated in the Home Office’s policy guidance or Appendix EU of the Immigration Rules.