On June 23, 2016, the UK citizens voted to leave the European Union, a phenomenon, which is commonly referred to Brexit.
However, this exit process only begins when the United Kingdom invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the European Council.
The European Council, after receiving the withdraw request from the United Kingdom, will set the rules that will guide negotiations between the EU and the British.
These negotiations should be concluded within a period of two years, which may be extended for a longer time by unanimous agreement between UK and EU members.
Until the end of the negotiations or actual exit of United Kingdom, European laws still will apply in the United Kingdom, as well all the rights of European citizens living there.
This context naturally creates a period of uncertainty for the EU citizens living and working in the UK today, regarding their rights of residence and work.
These are some possible scenarios for the Portuguese who will or currently live, work or study in the UK:
- The EEA model: With this agreement – already exists in Norway and Iceland – the UK can maintain a privileged relationship with the European Union (through the European Economic Area (EEA), which allows the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital.
If they choose this option, the position of EU citizens living and working in the UK would remain unchanged.
- The Swiss model: A bilateral agreement for broad access to the single market.
The free movement of persons would depend on the agreement between the UK and other Member States. However, any agreement involving the access to the Single Market, it is expected that also involves a free movement agreement between the British and the European Union, allowing EU citizens to live and work in the UK freely.
- Another kind of agreement:
Any other agreement that does not involve access to the single market, will certainly prevent the free movement of people between the UK and the EU.
Currently, the Portuguese Consulate in London advises – to residents and future residents – two alternatives:
- If the Portuguese citizen lived more than five years in the United Kingdom, he must apply for a permanent residence card. This will prove the citizen right to live in the UK permanently;
- If the Portuguese citizen is new in the UK or lives in the country for less than five years, he must apply for a residence visa (which after five years will become permanent).