500 days ago, the British Government refused to guarantee my rights after the UK voted to leave the EU. Like you, I have been in limbo ever since.
Over the months, I have been called a bargaining chip, a brave soul or negotiating capital by those who are in Government. This is simply unacceptable when reported hate crimes have gone up by 29% since the referendum. This Government has maintained an uncertainty which is morally wrong and sadly so damaging to the mental health of many EU citizens I’ve met since 24 June 2016.
I don’t expect empathy since very little is shown even to people who have fled war zones or genocides but decency and fairness should have dictated a better course of action at the top.
Of course, this does not apply to the vast majority of British people of all political denomination who have shown support and expressed regrets that this Government hasn’t provided a basic guarantee which would have sent a strong message to society at large and stood up to the xenophobes.
So what now?
The good news is that the British Government is not deciding our future on its own and how we will live our lives will depend on the quality of the deal between them and the EU. And this is also true for our British friends in Europe.
As a reader of these newsletters, you will know that the3million is directly engaged in conversations with DExEU, the Home Office and the European Commission and we have produced an alternative proposal to settled status which would provide a solution that would work for all of us and satisfy both parties. We are presenting it to Michel Barnier on 13 November and hopefully David David shortly afterwards to show them what good looks like.
What can I do about it?
To mark this depressing landmark (500 days in limbo), may I ask you to write to your MP, to your MEP or/and to the Lords and Baronesses you may know and tell them how you feel in the simplest way possible.
the3million met on Friday. You can offer to volunteer by clicking on the picture above.
They might ask you questions or say the settled status proposal will give us protection. It’s bullshit (excuse my French!) and you might want to tell why.
Why do we reject the UK Government’s proposed ‘settled status’?
The proposed ‘settled status’ is based on UK Immigration Law, which is the legal framework for the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ towards third country nationals.
So instead of creating protection, the proposed settled status removes our existing rights and brings us within the scope of the hostile environment:
For us citizens, we would need to agree to a mandatory criminal and conduct check. We are not criminals guys! We are your colleagues in your hospitals, in your hotels, in your restaurant, in your farms, in your universities etc…
It would increase the current level of uncertainty, due to the arbitrary powers given to the Home Office in rejecting applications. Knowing they operate within a 10% error margin (that’s 300,000 people out of the 3 million), this leaves us with no protection against erroneous refusals which could lead to deportations.
The consequences of a refusal could be catastrophic: the Home Office can demand that our employer terminates our employment, that our landlord evict us, that banks freeze our assets, that we lose access to healthcare and be removed from the country.
We don’t know any details about the appeal process. If it is similar to the appeal rights in place for third country nationals, this could mean no legal aid and no right of appeal in the country. How many families would be torn apart and how many tens of thousands of Skype children would this create? What about our rights?
Same rights? Not quite!
Settled status gives EU citizens reduced rights, removing our ability to build families with other EU or third country nationals.
It would also make it much more difficult for a British citizen currently living in the EU to return to Britain after Brexit with an EU spouse. This would affect British soldiers based in Europe who fall in love with a European partners for example.
EU citizens with Permanent Residence would also lose their status despite the effort and the time (and the lawyer’s fee for some) they had spent to get through the Home Office’s red tape.
To make things worse, the British Government is refusing to guarantee their own proposal over our lifetime by taking away the jurisdiction of the ECJ which would ensure the Home Office is kept in check now and for decades.
So thank you for the proposal but no thanks.
What’s the alternative?
Instead, our team of lawyers has worked on an alternative proposal based on the current Permanent Residence legislation to allow all 3 million EU citizens currently living in the UK to continue with their lives without disruption.
A simple application process with you local Council, with just one form of ID and proof of residence (Council tax bill, utility bill etc).
No additional Comprehensive Sickness Insurance as the European Union had said this is covered by the NHS in the UK.
A grace period to allow everyone to register their right to stay. During this period (which should last as long as it takes to give a chance for all EU citizens to register), EU citizens will only need to show ID to access healthcare or prove their entitlement to employment.
If there is a problem with the application, you would still have access to healthcare or entitled to be employed until your appeal is completed.
Unlike settled status, our proposal aims at securing a safe future for all EU citizens and their families after Brexit without the risk of deportation.
It will maintain our existing rights as they are and implement a fairer registration system which won’t penalise vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly, carers or people who have been trafficked into this country.
All within a new legal framework which cannot be changed by future Government or misinterpreted by the Home Office.
The full proposal is available at www.the3million.org.uk/publications
It might have been 500 days but still, we are not bargaining chips. We are people and this is our home. Share the love!