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Proposals for EU citizens’ post-Brexit rights

By Benjamin Meunier, on 29 June 2017

Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU have started and the government published a paper setting out their offer for EU citizens in the UK earlier this week. As has been widely reported, the EU considers that this forms a first step for negotiations, although it has called for more assurances and certainty. In today’s edition of the Times Higher Education, Michael Arthur, UCL President and Provost, said that the fate of EU staff was a “critical” issue for institutions:

“We actively encourage UK and EU politicians to make rapid progress on this issue, so that the current uncertainty facing EU citizens, including our staff and students, can be resolved,” he said.


The full paper setting out the government’s proposals is available online:

Safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU


I appreciate that at this time, being a EU citizen in the UK feels somewhat unsettled and different to the pre-Brexit sense of “normality”, whereby living and working in the UK was virtually no different from any other EU country. We are still in a period of lingering uncertainty, which will dissipate as the negotiations progress. I take some encouragement from the fact that these negotiations on the status of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the rest of the EU are among the very first to be discussed. There seems to be an eagerness to resolve the issue promptly, as noted above, and the emphasis on “safeguarding the position” of EU citizens currently living in the UK. I am also heartened by the stance which UCL has taken, through the Provost in particular, to highlight the contribution which EU staff and students make to the university and to publicly emphasise that we are valued members of the UCL community.

At a national level, the Russell Group has made a number of statements on behalf of the many EU citizens who work in member institutions. Its June briefing (published before the Government proposals were made public) highlighted that “a strong base of talent from Europe and across the world enables research-intensive universities to remain globally competitive and is fundamental to excellent research, innovation and education. EU staff members make a significant contribution to our success, in particular to the excellence of the UK research base and in teaching key subjects vital to the UK economy, such as STEM and modern languages.

Currently, there are around 24,860 members of staff from other EU countries at our universities:  15% of the overall workforce, 23% of academics and 27% of staff on research-only contracts are EU nationals.”

The Russell Group added that whilst it welcomed the expressed intention by both the Government and the EU to strike an early agreement on the rights of EU citizens in the UK, it sought the following reassurances:

  • “Confirmation of the continued working rights for current EU staff (and their dependants) at UK universities and for those who take up positions before the UK has left the EU. We would want staff and their dependants to retain the same rights to stay and work without a visa that they have now (with no time limit placed on this)
  • In the longer term, we want to ensure our universities can continue to recruit the talented staff they need from all over the world without overly-burdensome visa requirements. “


UCL HR have advised that, at this stage, there is no change to the rights of EU citizens within the UK. As previously advised, if you have any queries or concerns, please contact me in Paul Ayris’ absence. You can also find information on UCL’s EU referendum webpage for staff and students (including an FAQ): http://www.ucl.ac.uk/eu-referendum 

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