The continuing informal voices from ordinary citizens regarding guarantees of the right to remain were strongly echoed and supported with official pressure this week.
The British Future think tank published its report, concluding that EU nationals already living in the UK at the point when Article 50 is triggered should be guaranteed the right to settle here permanently. The Inquiry’s report calls on the Government to make a clear public commitment that the 2.8 million Europeans in the UK can stay, and should be offered permanent residence with the same health, social and educational rights as British citizens.
After Article 50 is triggered, EU citizens could still move to the UK under free movement rules until we leave the EU – but their post-Brexit status would be dependent on whatever future arrangements the UK negotiates with the EU.
The Inquiry panel included voices from Leave and Remain, different political parties and from business and trade unions and was chaired by Gisela Stuart MP, former Chair of the Vote Leave campaign. Its remit was to examine how the Government can protect the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit and to make practical recommendations as to how to do this, starting from the premise that this is the right thing to do.
The Inquiry’s report also recommends major changes to the application process for permanent residence, which, it says, is onerous for the applicant and risks overwhelming the Home Office with one of the biggest single administrative tasks it has ever undertaken. At the 2015 rate of processing it would take 150 years to process the applications of all EU nationals currently in the UK.
In a separate grassroot initiative, forty Polish community leaders called on MPs to guarantee EU citizens their acquired rights after Brexit in a self-funded ad in in @theHouse_mag
They said the guarantee would be in the best interest of the United Kingdom and discourage further intimidation of migrant communities and hate crime, which has hit the record levels following the June referendum. In a strongly worded message, the community leaders wrote that a denial of such guarantees would be seen as betrayal of trust of the people who were encouraged to come to the UK, made Britain their home and contributed hugely to the economy.
Meanwhile, an upcoming legal challenge was announced to submit the Brexit processes review in the Irish High Court – a refreshing and most welcome reminder that there is more than one nation in this country, run by more than one capital’s powers.
There is also a new suggestion that the June 23 referendum result may have been influenced by foreign powers. A Labour MP has claimed that it is “highly probable” that Vladimir Putin’s Russia interfered in the UK’s Brexit vote.
Ben Bradshaw said Moscow’s likely interference in the vote would fit a pattern of meddling in other nations’ affairs, following the CIA’s accusation that Russian hackers tried to influence the recent US elections: “I don’t think we have even begun to wake up to what Russia is doing when it comes to cyber warfare. Not only their interference, now proven, in the American presidential campaign, [but] probably in our referendum last year. We don’t have the evidence for that yet. But I think it’s highly probable.” Even though denied by Downing Street, the idea certainly raises further questions and begs for an investigation and we will keep you posted.
Finally, today’s Guardian reports on Helena Kennedy QC suggestions for collecting together bills, rental or home ownership documents, employment paperwork, or evidence of appointments for those who do not have jobs. She chairs a Lords EU subcommittee that has just completed an investigation into the “acquired rights” of Europeans in the UK and Britons living in continental Europe. She warned of deep anxiety among EU citizens in the UK but also British nationals living on the continent.
After hearing from a series of experts, ambassadors from across Europe and Britons living overseas, the group will on Wednesday call for a unilateral undertaking to immediately guarantee to safeguard the rights of all EU nationals in the UK. Saying that Theresa May has a “heavy moral obligation” to make the first move, it also warns:
- Question marks over the rights of EU nationals to live in the UK “may be fuelling xenophobic sentiment”, as suggested by the Bulgarian ambassador.
- People living in the UK for more than five years may not be eligible for permanent residency because of the little-known requirement for students and non-workers to have private healthcare.
- Uncertainty is making Britain a less attractive destination, which could widen gaps in key parts of the labour market, including medical and financial services.
Whatever we may think of each of the individual developments mentioned above, we must agree that they show a strong tendency for undermining the official line of the PM and her government, on the basis of ethical, legal and human rights standpoint and research. We remain optimistic that we won’t be forced out of our homes and will continue to contribute to our chosen home country.
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