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News article21 July 2021European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion2 min read

New agreement protects EU citizens in the UK and vice versa

A new agreement between the EU and the UK has come into force this year. It focuses on protecting the rights and choices of EU citizens living and working in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU.

New agreement protects EU citizens in the UK and vice versa

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement recognises the rights of EU citizens living outside the EU, as well as UK citizens living in the EU, and outlines agreed approaches to trade and opportunities. First agreed in December 2020, the legislation covers citizens’ rights, a financial settlement between the UK and the EU and protocol for Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Since the UK first opted to withdraw from the EU in 2016, and officially left the EU in 2020, many discussions have taken place to ensure the life choices, safety and security of EU citizens living in the UK are protected. Formal negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and EU began in March 2020, resulting in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Rights to live, work and study protected

The legislation has been implemented from the beginning of this year, working to safeguard the rights of over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and over 1 million UK nationals in EU countries.

It is designed to ensure citizens are still able to live, work and study both inside and outside the EU, and also covers aspects including fundamental rights at work, health and safety standards, and fair working conditions.

The agreement states that EU citizens living in the UK before 1 January 2021 can continue to live there, providing they applied to the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021. Those continuing to work in the UK after 1 January 2021, and that have applied for the scheme, will not be required to apply for a frontier worker document.

UK citizens legally residing in the EU before 1 January 2021 who continue to reside in the EU afterwards may need to apply for a new residence status in the Member State where they live. They also have the right to apply for a frontier worker document in that Member State.

Social security coordination still applies

EU citizens that have been continuously living and working in the UK (or vice versa) since before the end of the transition period also benefit from full coordination on social security legislation. Going forward, all EU rules concerning rights to social security will continue to apply in such cases.

Partial coordination is also in place for EU citizens that have not been living continuously in the UK, but have still been subject to UK social security legislation before the end of the transition period (or vice versa). This applies, for example, to rules regarding equal treatment, sickness and family benefits, and combining rights and obligations from different periods of residency.

The EU and the UK have also concluded agreements with Switzerland and EEA EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) to protect people in triangular situations (such as a UK national residing or working in the EU at the end of the transition period, but with children living in a different EU Member State).

For more information about the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, visit:

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