One person in a conversation recently said: “Surely it is not a problem for them [EU citizens]. They can apply to the EU settlement scheme”. Yes they can and many have done so, some have received either their settled or pre-settled status, while others are still waiting, unsure of what the result will be. Some did not apply by the deadline of 30 June 2021, yet have lived here for maybe more years than they have in their home country, married but did not apply for their citizenship, not expecting to be worried about living here. They may have children at school, built up a business or career and in doing so have paid their taxes.
Patrick Worrall reports that Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in the House of Commons, asked for the date to be scrapped as: “We know there are hundreds of thousands of unprocessed cases. It is simply unacceptable, Mr Speaker, that their rights will be diminished by the failures of this government.” The government promised that the people who have not been processed yet will have their rights protected while awaiting a decision. This may be a brief relief, but whilst waiting, life is insecure and unsettling.
The Home Office figures show that the department had received 6 million applications for settled status. Just over one half (52%) have been granted indefinite leave (settled) status. Another 43% have pre-settled status, limited to five years. It has been asked: “And then what? Live in fear for five years to possibly lose everything anyway?”. So far 2% have been refused, according to the Home Office. Applicants have been told that from 1st July the ‘Certificate of Application “will be proof to continue their rights until a decision has been made.” However, that certificate has to be received from the Home Office.
If an EU citizen missed the 30 June deadline they will not automatically be deported or lose their access to benefits. However, they will be at risk of enforcement if they come into contact with authority. They will be given a written notice giving them the option to apply within 28 days, but have to have ‘reasonable grounds’ for missing the deadline. A government source told Channel 4 FactCheck that “whether such action is taken will be determined in accordance with immigration enforcement policy guidance relating to those in breach of immigration law and following a careful assessment of the individual’s circumstances.” Not much comfort, reading just how often the Home Office change their laws to suit themselves.
In June 2016 as part of the referendum campaign on EU membership, Priti Patel, Michael Gove, Gisela Stuart and Boris Johnson said in statement “EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.” In July 2019, Boris Johnson made a statement that EU nationals in Britain “have the absolute certainty for the right to live and remain”. Some campaigners were confused at this, somehow believing that Johnson would change the law to guarantee residency rights for EU citizens, which of course has not happened.
Yes, in Europe, British nationals have also to ask for permission to stay, but the question is surely: Why has this problem come about at all on either side of the Channel? And the answer is Brexit or at least, a bad Brexit deal.
Image Credits: Tumisu / Pixabay https://pixabay.com/photos/brexit-uk-eu-westminster-3579599/.