EU Citizenship Rights


Text amended 18 December 2017
Links amended 18 December 2017


Kiev Pride, 2016 | EPA | 17117

What this is about

The changes to the rights of EU citizens to live in the UK post Brexit.

On 23 June, 2016 the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. On 29 March, 2017 the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom applied to leave the European Union under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The United Kingdom is now negotiating with the EU negotiators how that leaving process will happen. Initially it was thought that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union on 29 March, 2019, but there is now growing awareness on both sides of the negotiations that a longer period of time may be needed for a successful conclusion.

Negotiators for both the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union are currently giving priority in the negotiations to working out an agreement on EU citizen’s rights. Those rights include the right of any EU citizen to live and work in the United Kingdom, their entitlement to state benefits and services such as health care on the National Health Service, their legal position, and so on. There are reciprocal arrangements for United Kingdom citizens to live and work in all member states in the European Union.

Some 3.5 million citizens from other member states live in the UK and about 1.2 million British nationals live on the continent.

Since the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community, as it was then called, on January 1st, 1973, many UK gay and lesbian people have formed relationships with gay and lesbian people from the rest of Europe. Gay Activist is concerned that Brexit will not have a negative impact on their rights and relationships.

Since the referendum result was announced, there have been a succession of high-profile cases involving longstanding residents or their children being denied permanent residency in the United Kingdom, and the British government has been accused in Brussels of failing to treat EU nationals fairly and humanely. It is not known what effect this will have on the negotiations.

The Government published its proposals on 26 June 2017. These were rejected by EU negotiators in July 2017. On 10 July 2017, the European Parliament warned that it would veto the proposed arrangements and called for them to be improved substantially. Guy Verhofstadt and seven other senior Members of the European Parliament called for the UK to guarantee full rights under EU law and pledge to maintain equal treatment for the 3 million EU migrants in Britain.

In December 2017 provisional agreement was reached with the EU negotiators that existing citizenship rights will continue to be respected fully during Brexit. Also an agreement made between the UK Government and the Northern Ireland administration would give Northern Ireland born citizens with Irish passports benefits closed to British passport holders.

From a certain date – probably the start of any agreed transition period – EU citizens coming to the UK may be required to register their arrival and personal details with the immigration authorities.

More information will be added to this page when available.

Acts of Parliament

European Union Withdrawal Bill

Home Pages



Guardian, 19 June 2017 How do citizens’ rights affect the Brexit negotiations
Guardian, 26 June 2017: EU Citizens living in UK must apply for a special ID card after Brexit
Financial Times, 10 July 2017: MEPs reject UK’s ‘damp squib’ Brexit offer on EU citizen rights
Guardian, 20 July 2017: Britons in Europe face huge loss of their rights on free movement
Guardian, 17 December 2017: Brexit deal gives more rights to Irish passport holders
Irish Times, Dec 18, 2017: Belfast Agreement constitutionally binds the UK to Europe
Europa: EU citizens’ rights and Brexit