No-deal Brexit: Poland and Czech Republic to allow Britons to stay if UK crashes out

Emergency laws being written to enable Britons to remain and work in the two countries in event of no-deal Brexit

Mateusz Morawiecki (L) and Theresa May (R)
 Mateusz Morawiecki (L) and Theresa May (R) at a press conference at Lancaster House last month. Photograph: Pawel Supernak/EPA

Two more European Union states, Poland and the Czech Republic, have said they are preparing emergency laws to allow Britons to stay to work in their countries legally in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Czechs say their draft law will mean the estimated 8,000 Britons living in the country are exempt from normal immigration laws until the end of the December 2020.

With a 21-month exemption period, it appears to be the most generous of proposals made so far by any member state for Britons settled in the bloc.

However, it will only become effective if the UK reciprocates and guarantees the rights of about 40,000 Czech citizens living in Britain.

The Polish government is drafting a similar law which will give the estimated 6,000 Britons in the country a year without having to change their status to immigrants from a third country.

The proposed legislation will offer relief to Britons in Poland and the Czech Republic – although they only represent around 14,000 of the estimated 1 million Britons settled on the continent.

The Polish have said they will offer permanent residency covering the right to work to those who have been in the country for more than five years and a three-year temporary residence permit to those who have been there for fewer than five years.

The card will have the word Brexit on it, making it distinguishable from the normal residency permit. It will also protect the rights of non-EU spouses of Britons.

The 25-page draft bill which appears on the website of the government legislation centre says that once the UK leaves at midnight on 29-30 March this year, Britons living in Poland will have until 30 March 2020 to confirm their rights by obtaining a temporary residence permit or permanent residence in the country. Applications registered later will not be considered.

The draft laws come after the authorities in Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands sought to give last-minute assurances to anxious British nationals.

Berlin authorities already opened an online registration for British nationalswhile the Italians have promised emergency legislation to exempt Britons from normal immigration laws if the UK crashes out of the EU. France has also sought to reassure the estimated 160,000 Britons of their post-Brexit status and the Dutch last week told Britons they could stay there in the event of a cliff-edge Brexit.

The move by Poland comes just weeks after Theresa May told its prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, during a visit to Downing Street that the Polish people were welcome in the UK.

She said: “Almost 1 million Poles make their lives in Britain That is why securing the rights of Polish and other EU citizens was my priority in the Brexit negotiations.”

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