EU nationals in the UK and British citizens in Europe will understandably be feeling more anxious the closer we get to 31st October with the Government ramping up threats to crash out of the EU without a deal. I have written to the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU to ask him to provide urgent reassurance to citizens by taking steps that will mean they can believe the Prime Minister when he says he can assure them of their “absolute certainty of the right to live and remain”.
21st August 2019
The impact of leaving the EU without a deal on citizens’ rights
I am writing to seek clarity on a number of issues related to citizens’ rights in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal in light of the Prime Minister’s stated objective to leave on 31st October with or without a deal.
In his statement, Priorities for Government, to the Commons on 25th July 2019 the Prime Minister said that he could assure EU nationals living and working in the UK that “under this Government they will have the absolute certainty of the right to live and remain”. You will also be aware that the Vote Leave campaign, which the Prime Minister led, pledged that “there will no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present”.
I wrote to the Minister formerly responsible for citizens’ rights in your department and the former Immigration Minister last December regarding the Department for Exiting the EU’s policy paper ‘Citizens’ rights in the event of a no deal Brexit’ and enclose the letter and the response for information.
I would be grateful if you could clarify if the current Government’s policy has changed on the following:
Deadline on applications and ending freedom of movement
In the original paper, the Government still accepted that there “may be good reasons why some people may not have applied” to the EU Settlement Scheme in time, but the Ministers indicated that it was still their policy to bring the deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme forward by six months.
However, it has been reported by that the Home Secretary intends to end free movement on the 31st October if no agreement has been reached with the EU. EU citizens would then have only three months to apply for temporary leave to remain. Can you verify these reports? If this is Government policy, could you please outline how it is envisaged landlords and employers will be able to distinguish between EU nationals with temporary leave to remain and those who do not and how will this interact with the EU Settlement Scheme? Most importantly, what will the consequences be for individuals who do not apply in time?
The Withdrawal Agreement provides for a right of appeal before a judge. However, the previous ‘no deal’ paper stated that the only right of appeal would be an internal administrative review (at a cost of £80) or a judicial review. Short of launching a judicial review, which is extremely expensive and time-consuming, it provides no right of appeal before a judge. Does the Government still intend to provide no right of appeal before a judge?
The Withdrawal Agreement also provides for an “independent authority” to monitor the scheme. Although ‘no deal’ would not change the requirement for independent oversight, the previous Ministers stated that such a body would not be established. Is this still the case?
The paper introduced a cut-off point on family reunion of 29 March for existing non-EU family members, which does not appear in the Withdrawal Agreement. The Ministers stated that this was in order to replicate the system for non-EU citizens. This is clearly “less favourable” treatment than before, which the Prime Minister pledged would not occur so has the Government reviewed this policy with the intention of changing it?
British Citizens in the EU
I raised concerns on issues affecting British citizens resident in the EU27 in the previous letter, including onward free movement, and set out the unilateral actions the UK Government could take now. Will the Government now state clearly that any of those citizens who return to the UK will be able to bring existing and future family members and have full access to benefits and public services? Moreover, does the Government still intend to uprate UK state pensions on the basis of reciprocity with each Member State?
I am also concerned by reports of a directive issued to the NHS by the Department of Health and Social Care that EU citizens who had previously been eligible for free treatment, but who cannot demonstrate that they “live in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis”, would face charges immediately after 31st October. I recognise that there have been conflicting statements on the issue, so would be grateful if you could indicate what discussions you have had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and confirm that EU citizens will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.
EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU have been subject to uncertainty about their rights for the past three years and urgently require reassurance. Changing the policy as suggested and enshrining their rights in primary legislation is the only way for the Prime Minister’s assurance to have any meaningful effect on these citizens.
I look forward to your response.
Paul Blomfield MP
Shadow Minister for Exiting the EU
Member of Parliament for Sheffield Central