Why are we, EU citizens, calling the Home Office’s decision to end Freedom of Movement on 1 November reckless politics?

First published in August 2019.

• The new Home Secretary and Ultra-Brexiter Priti Patel is pressing for Freedom of Movement to cease on 31 October as border restrictions would be imposed immediately on Brexit Day.
• Under her new plans, free movement for EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU27 will thus end on day one of a no-deal Brexit.

Ending Freedom of Movement means switching on the Hostile Environment for anyone who cannot prove their right to stay in the UK.

Both the EU and the previous Government under Theresa May were aware of the consequences ending Freedom of Movement would have on EU citizens already living in the UK.

They understood that it was vital to give EU citizens the time to successfully apply for Settled Status before exposing them to the Hostile Environment in which proving the right to live, rent, work in the UK is the most basic requirement.

That is why the EU and the UK Government agreed to the transition period to also cover citizens’ rights. Allowing the UK Government to issue documentation to EU citizens so that they can prove their right to live and work to anyone who is obliged to check within the Hostile Environment.

This is why the plan to switch off Freedom of Movement in less than 73 days, without protecting the rights of EU citizens in any other way, is so dangerous.

In the last 142 days, since 29 March, the UK Government has managed to process just over 1 million EU Settlement Scheme applications. Leaving over 2 million EU citizens without a status.

Leaving over 2 million EU citizens who, if Freedom of Movement is really ending abruptly on 31 October, will have no official proof that they have the right to live and work in the UK. Exposing them directly to the Hostile Environment.

Ending Freedom of Movement abruptly, before all EU citizens in the UK can be issued with a status under the EU Settlement Scheme will create two sets of EU citizens. One set who have the automatic right to live and work, and those who arrive after 31 October, who have not.

Those two sets of EU citizens will be indistinguishable to landlords, banks, employers and the NHS. How are organisations meant to determine which rights those EU citizens in front of them will have?

The Hostile Environment places huge fines on those who provide services, accommodation or jobs to ineligible non-UK citizens. Facing those fines, it is obvious that these organisations will blanket-discriminate against all EU citizens who lack proof.

And that blanket-discrimination will include the over 2 million EU citizens, who under Mr Johnson’s unequivocal guarantee will retain the right to live and work but have not been processed through the EU Settlement Scheme.

We are therefore calling on all MPs who believe in common decency, no matter what party they are from, to speak up for us EU citizens now. You are also representing EU citizens in Parliament. And now, more then ever, EU citizens need you to be their voice.

This country, our home, must not allow for any policy that will lead to mass discrimination. We have put our trust into the UK when we, EU citizens, came here, contributing not just workwise but in taxes too.

We need every MP, every Peer — actually every British person — with a sense of British fairness, a sense of common decency to speak up against these ludicrous policies driven by tabloid politics. Do not allow your EU neighbours, friends, colleagues to become political victims.🔷

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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 19 August 2019, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Wikimedia/ImmigrationEnfIO. A Thin Purple Line (UK) patch as seen on an Immigration Enforcement fleece. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)