In the atmosphere of increasing tension as we enter the month of triggering Article 50, the government faces at least a temporary defeat in the Lords over the status of EU nationals. Peers are unlikely to accept home secretary Amber Rudd’s claim in a letter to each peer that:
a guarantee of EU nationals’ right to stay, however “well-intentioned”, would not help the hundreds of thousands of UK citizens living on the continent as it could leave them in potential limbo if reciprocal assurances were not given by the EU’s 27 other member states.
She said there was “absolutely no question of treating EU citizens with anything other than the utmost respect”.
“This isn’t just about ensuring British businesses and our public sector have access to the right workers,” she wrote.
“We owe it to those many European citizens who have contributed so much to this country to resolve this issue as soon as possible and give them the security they need to continue to contribute to this country.”
Given that, should not EU nationals not at least wait and see what happens? Not so it seems. The FT (£) reveals the bureaucratic nightmare many of them are going through already.
Changes in the system of claiming their right to remain in GB whatever happens in the Brexit negotiations now requires each of them to fill in an 85 page form, rather than present simplicity of automatic entitlement to permanent residency after five years, according to an FT report
EU membership has for decades guaranteed the bloc’s citizens the right to live and work in Britain. But with that set to end after the UK voted in June to leave the EU, permanent residency is a legal lifeline that many of the 3m Europeans living in Britain are now reaching for. It re-establishes those same rights under UK law. It is also a prerequisite to apply for British citizenship. Short of that, many panicky applicants seem to believe such status will at least put them at the head of the queue for a work permit or some other legal protection after the UK leaves the bloc.
But doing so means confronting an onerous application and overstretched bureaucracy that is heaping frustration — and hefty legal fees — on many long-time UK residents. “There are 85 pages to fill in and they ask the same thing over and over again but in a way you never know what the right answer is,” complained Marta Grabinska, who has been waiting six months for a reply.
Ms Jozefkowicz, who estimated she spends about two weeks preparing each application, agreed it was “quite confusing”, adding: “For somebody who speaks little English it’s impossible.” The eastern European resource centre charges just £50 beyond the £65 application fee for each family member. Private lawyers and a growing rank of informal “advisers” are charging immigrants anywhere from £200 to £1,000. Anger over such costs has prompted an online petition with more than 26,000 signatures. For some professionals, no amount of money is worth the aggravation. “When someone asks me for help with this I don’t even mention the price — I just say ‘no’ because I know this is going to be a nightmare,” said Sebastian Derwisinski, a Pole who owns a Northampton accountancy firm, Renaissance The Partners, with his wife Malgorzata. They spent two weeks preparing their own permanent residency application right after the June referendum. “That was the trigger,” he recalled. “We wanted to make sure everything would be smooth after Brexit.” The application, whose guidance notes alone run to 18 pages, was only instituted in late 2015. Before that, an EU national was simply deemed a permanent resident after five years living continuously in the UK.
The Home Office said no applicant was required to complete all 85 pages, and that it was working to make the process “quicker and easier”. Many EU nationals can now apply online.
And going in the other direction ..
The number of Irish students applying to study in the UK has dropped by about 20 per cent since the Brexit vote last year.
Concerns among Northern Irish students which emerge in the report include restrictions on access to the Erasmus programme and their right to an Irish – and EU – passport.
The consultation includes stakeholders who work with or for young people, such as the ISPCC, the youth wings of political parties and representatives from the Ombudsman for Children and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People.
They underline the importance of protecting the Belfast Agreement and the need to prioritise measures to address the loss of EU citizenship by young people in the North,
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London