Skip to main content

European Parliament publishes study on what Brexit will mean for asylum and international protection


98-page report on the future relationship between the UK and the EU in the field of international protection

Date of Publication:

As the clock ticks down to the UK leaving the European Union in March 2019, the European Parliament's Policy Department for Citizen's Rights and Constitutional Affairs has released a useful and important new study looking at what Brexit will mean for asylum and international protection.

The 98-page report, The future relationship between the UK and the EU in the field of international protection following the UK's withdrawal from the EU, can be downloaded here.

It examines the legal standards applicable to the UK following Brexit in light of current collaborations and areas of common interest, and it reviews existing forms of cooperation between the EU and other third countries, in particular the models of Norway and Switzerland.

The study notes that international protection has so far received little atttention in the Brexit negotiations, with EU institutions yet to publish anything on the future framework of cooperation.

The study's findings suggest that none of the existing legal mechanisms and policy measures which are used to support the cooperation between the EU and other third countries in the field of international protection are exactly replicable for the UK. It states: "Following Brexit, from being a Member State, the UK will become a third country with a longstanding history of institutionalised cooperation with the EU in the area of international protection, which is likely to distinguish it from other third countries. New arrangements will therefore need to be developed that are tailored to the unique position that the UK will have as an ex-Member State."

On the crucial subject of the Dublin Regulation, the study notes: "A primary area with significant implications in the area of international protection is the Dublin system and, interwoven with Dublin, access to the Eurodac database. In this regard, the EU and the UK both have strong interest in continued cooperation. In contrast to the first-round CEAS [Common European Asylum System] Directives, the Dublin and Eurodac Regulations will cease to apply following Brexit in the case of a no-deal. In such a scenario, there will be no backup option to transfer asylum seekers to or from the UK under international law and uncertainty will persist in relation to pending transfers. While the UK has expressed interest in a legal mechanism to be able to return asylum seekers to their first point of entry for processing, the EU may wish to establish a Dublin-like system to carry out Dublin transfers for the purpose of family reunification. If the UK is no longer able to remain in the current Dublin III system, an agreement similar to those concluded with Dublin/Schengen associated countries could be established between the UK and the EU for all or specific criteria (e.g. family reunification) for the application of the Dublin system."

The study also finds: "A key challenge will be to ensure the protection of asylum seekers' and refugees' human rights in the UK following Brexit, as the UK will neither have obligations under the EU Charter nor be subject to CJEU [Court of Justice of the European Union] jurisdiction after exit day unless explicitly agreed as part of an arrangement for continued cooperation in the area of international protection. If the UK continues to implement the content of the first-round CEAS Directives, however, the existing standards for reception, qualification for international protection and the procedures for granting refugee status to asylum seekers will continue to apply. However, although the UK will remain committed to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the status of Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights (under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights), there are concerns that the UK will not replace the elements of the EU Charter that are not covered by these international commitments, leading to reduced human rights protection in the UK. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the UK will continue to align its asylum standards with those of the EU in the future."