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Brexit and Social Security in the EU

Centre for European Policy Studies, 17 November 2016.

According to the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, “Brexit means Brexit” and the UK will be leaving the EU. From the various statements issued by the Prime Minister and her new Home Secretary, “Brexit means Brexit” seems to mean that “Brexit means in any event the end of free movement of (non-British) EU citizens to the UK in particular for the purposes of extended residence, work and self-employment”. There is much discussion in the media and political circles regarding a ‘hard’ Brexit and a ‘soft’ Brexit, although exactly what the difference may be is unclear. It would seem that a ‘soft’ Brexit would include access for the UK to the EU’s internal market on terms similar to those it currently has as a member state. But this is only possible if there is a deal on free movement of EU citizens to the UK, which is acceptable to the other member states. A ‘hard’ Brexit appears at the moment to mean a UK departure for the EU without preferential access to the internal market and perhaps a fall-back position of movement of goods, services and capital as regulated by the World Trade Organisation agreements on customs and tariffs.

For EU citizens, both British who have worked or lived in another member state and non-British who have worked or lived in the UK, Brexit of any kind may have consequences for their social security entitlements. Unless agreement is reached between the UK authorities and their EU counterparts (or bilaterally), many people may lose out. This commentary sets out some of the key issues and areas where EU citizens will need to watch out regarding their rights.

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