Skip to main content
Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Between the devil and the deep blue sea: Vulnerable EU citizens cast adrift in the UK post-Brexit


Both the UK Government and the EU negotiating team have let down vast numbers of EU citizens in the UK. The creation of continuing EU responsibilities in a newly ex-Member State, for EU citizens who exercised their EU free movement rights before withdrawal, is an unprecedented challenge. This piece explores four growing threats to their rights. (1) The conditions laid down in Directive 2004/38 loom large in the Withdrawal Agreement, disproportionately disentitling women and children from a right to stay in their homes. (2) The Withdrawal Agreement contains a dramatic departure from standard practice in EU law, allowing the UK and Member States to make registration constitutive, not declaratory, of the right to stay. It will transform thousands into unauthorized migrants overnight. (3) The UK's new EU Settled Status is fraught with risks of administrative injustice, which affect the vulnerable most. (4) The UK's attempt to separate welfare rights from "pre-settled status" forces wide-reaching questions about the clout of Article 18 TFEU. In short, vulnerable EU citizens emerge in this process not so much as bargaining chips but as collateral damage, with the UK government displaying a considerable appetite for, and the EU tolerating, a real risk of large-scale disentitlement.

You might also be interested in :

Brexit and article 50 teu: A constitutionalist reading
This article considers the constitutional requirements and implications of Article 50 TEU for the EU. It argues that it is essential to read Article 50 in light of the features of the Treaty of which it forms part together with its drafting context, that of the Convention on the Future of Europe…
Brexit Means Br(EEA)Xit: The UK withdrawal from the EU and its implications for the EEA
Because it extends the Single Market to the three EFTA States Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, the Agreement on the European Economic Area is not an EU external agreement comme les autres. This is particularly salient in the context of the UK withdrawal from the EU.
Free movement Vs. fair movement: Brexit and managed migration
The aim of this article is to propose a new concept of free movement of persons, based on the notion of "fair movement" or managed migration. In the context of the UK becoming a neighbouring State, but hoping to maintain access to the Single Market…
So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye: the UK's withdrawal package
The United Kingdom left the European Union at midnight CET on 31 January 2020. This article provides a critical analysis of the Withdrawal Package concluded by the Union and the UK. As regards the Withdrawal Agreement designed to facilitate an orderly departure, we analyse the provisions on:


Common Market Law Review


Charlotte O'Brien (United Kingdom)

Article meta

Country / region covered

Population studied

Year of Publication

Source type