VC Message to EU/EEA Staff
In the last few weeks we have seen a number of significant developments to the UK’s plans for leaving the European Union.
As you will be aware, in order for the UK to leave the EU it has to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gives both sides two years to negotiate and agree the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. At the end of January, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the Government cannot trigger Article 50 without the consent of Parliament. And this week, The House of Commons has passed the Brexit Bill without any amendments, which will now move to the House of Lords. These developments pave the way for the government to begin formally the UK's departure from the EU and to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017.
Many of you will be as disappointed as I am by the narrow defeat of a key amendment that would have given automatic permanent residency to all EU citizens currently living in the UK. However, in both a recent speech by the Prime Minister on the UK Government’s plans for Brexit, and in the White Paper on “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union”, the Government has given full recognition of the contribution EU nationals make to both the UK economy, and its communities. The Government has signalled its commitment to delivering on 12 objectives, which include securing the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK. Another priority is for the continued collaboration with European partners on science, research, and technology programmes.
The senior team and I appreciate that this continues to be an unsettling time for colleagues from EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries. I would like to assure you that I, other Vice-Chancellors, Universities UK (UUK), and the Russell Group, continue to press the Government to deliver on these objectives. In particular, we continue to argue that the status of EU and EEA citizens who are already living and working in the UK should be confirmed at the earliest opportunity and should not be linked to negotiations about the status of UK citizens living in EU countries.
UUK yesterday published its Brexit priorities for universities, and its first short-term priority is stated as follows:
Confirm rights to reside and work in the UK post-exit for EU nationals that are currently working in the university sector and their dependants. This should include confirmation of their access to public services. The government should take this step now, ahead of exit negotiations, to provide certainty for these hugely valued individuals.
Until Article 50 negotiations are concluded, the UK will remain a member of the EU and the rights of EU/EEA nationals living in the UK will remain unchanged. If you are a citizen of an EU/EEA country you can access further information online about your rights and the support available to you, should you wish to apply for confirmation of permanent residency.
For colleagues who are planning to apply for permanent residency in the UK, the University will be scheduling some more solicitor-led workshops to assist colleagues in this complex application process. More information on these will be circulated in due course.
It is encouraging that over 100 new colleagues from EU/EEA countries have started work at the University since last year’s Referendum. I would like to reassure you of the great value I place on the part you play in making the University a thriving, diverse and global community and that I will continue to use all the opportunities open to me to lobby the Government to provide a greater level of certainty to you as soon as possible.
With best wishes,
Professor Sir Steve Smith
Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive