top of page

Legal Implications of Brexit on the Rights and Obligations of EU Citizens in the UK and Vice Versa


The legal ramifications stemming from the United Kingdom's decision to exit the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit, had extensive consequences across various sectors. This case study meticulously examines the intricate legal effects of Brexit on the rights and obligations of EU citizens residing in the UK and UK citizens residing in EU member states. The analysis provides an in-depth exploration of pivotal dates, legislative shifts, and subsequent legal implications.

Key Dates:

  • June 23, 2016: The UK holds a referendum on EU membership, resulting in a majority vote in favor of leaving the EU.

  • March 29, 2017: The UK invokes Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, initiating the formal process of exiting the EU.

  • December 24, 2020: The UK and EU conclude negotiations, leading to the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which addresses several aspects of post-Brexit citizens' rights.

  • January 31, 2020: The UK formally withdraws from the EU, entering a transition period during which existing regulations remain applicable.

  • December 31, 2020: The transition period concludes, marking the commencement of new provisions stipulated in the trade agreement.

Impact on EU Citizens in the UK:


EU citizens who established residency in the UK prior to December 31, 2020, were eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. This mechanism provided eligible individuals with the options of obtaining "settled status" or "pre-settled status," contingent on their duration of residence. Settled status conferred enduring residency rights, encompassing the ability to sustain habitation, employment, and entitlement to benefits within the UK. Pre-settled status allowed provisional residency, enabling individuals to remain in the UK until eligible for settled status.


EU citizens residing in the UK were obligated to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme by the stipulated deadline of June 30, 2021. Non-compliance risked jeopardizing legal status and culminated in complications concerning employment, healthcare, and social benefits.

Impact on UK Citizens in the EU:


UK citizens who were already residing in EU member states before December 31, 2020, encountered shifts in their rights. The trade agreement preserved select rights, including the right to maintain residency within the EU and access to healthcare and social security privileges. Nevertheless, the specifics of these rights were contingent on the jurisdiction, necessitating distinct registration or application procedures.


Similar to EU citizens in the UK, UK citizens residing in EU member states were compelled to adhere to country-specific processes for residency registration. Adhering to these obligations was imperative for sustaining legal residency status and accessing crucial services.

Legal Analysis:

Brexit's legal implications on the rights and obligations of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in EU member states encompassed a complex legal transformation, involving legislative amendments, regulatory adjustments, and diplomatic negotiations. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement served as a foundational framework to safeguard specific rights, although it did not replicate the fluid mobility and entitlements inherent in EU membership.

The introduction of the EU Settlement Scheme represented a significant endeavor by UK authorities to uphold the rights of existing EU residents. However, concerns emerged regarding the application process, potential exclusions, and challenges faced by marginalized or vulnerable individuals unaware of the scheme.

Similarly, UK citizens in EU member states confronted varying degrees of disruption, as the autonomy of each EU jurisdiction granted the power to establish residency and entitlement regulations for UK nationals. This diversity engendered an atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion for expatriated UK citizens.

In conclusion, Brexit precipitated tangible legal transformations in the rights and obligations of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in EU member states. The transition period and ensuing agreements aimed to mitigate disruptions, but the alterations introduced an additional layer of legal complexity and ambiguity for the individuals affected. This case study underscores the intricate interplay between legal frameworks, regulatory mechanisms, and the legal experience during a period of significant geopolitical transition.


Follow LexTalk World for more news and updates from International Legal Industry




bottom of page