The Nursing and Midwifery Council in Britain has apologised to Irish nurses for mistakenly indicating that they would have to apply for “settled status” to continue working there after Brexit.
In an email to all registrants from EU countries last week, the NMC said there was “a lot of uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with the EU”, but it was important for members to know that “you will have to apply for UK immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after December 2020”.
EU citizens who have been living in Britain for at least five years will be eligible for “settled status” after Britain leaves the EU, entitling them to live and work in the country, and be joined by close family members.
A pilot settled status scheme was due to open this week for health and social care workers, and university staff, before being extended to all EU citizens on March 30th, 2019.
The NMC email did not mention that Irish citizens would not have to apply for settled status, as their right to live and work in the UK is protected under the Common Travel Area agreement between the UK and Ireland.
In a follow up email to Irish nurses on Monday, the NMC said: “If you’re an Irish citizen, your right of residence in the UK doesn’t rely on the UK’s membership of the EU. You will not need to apply for settled status under the scheme (but can do so if you wish). We’re sorry for the confusion.”
A spokesman for the Home Office confirmed to The Irish Times that Irish citizens living in the UK do not need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. “Their rights in the UK (including to live and work here) are protected after the UK leaves the EU under the UK-Ireland Common Travel Area arrangements,” the spokesman said.
“Thanks to these arrangements, citizens of the UK and Ireland have a special status in each other’s state, which predates our EU membership and reflects the close and historic ties between our countries.”
Irish citizens may choose to apply for settled status, for example if their spouse or another family member is not Irish or British, but it will not be necessary for them to have settled status in order to “sponsor” other applications, he added.
The Irish in Britain organisation, which raised the NMC email with the Home Office after being contacted by concerned Irish nurses last week, said the incident was indicative of the confusion among employers and other organisations about the legal status of Irish citizens in the context of Brexit.
“We are keen also to stress our solidarity with all of those affected by changes in their legal status, wherever they are from,” Irish in Britain communications officer Judith Orr added.