Dear Bim Afolami MP,
Michel Barnier recently commented that ‘the level of protection afforded under EU law must not be watered down; Brexit should not alter the nature of peoples' daily lives’. We hope that you agree with that statement and will do everything in your power to keep the promise made during the election.
In particular, we are asking you to make sure that that the level of protection afforded under EU law must not be watered down. This is not what May currently offers, in a proposal that has already been considered ‘weak and vague’ by EU leaders. This offer appears to be restricted to protect those who have arrived ‘legally’ in the UK prior to a cut-off date, and this protection will be subject to registration with the Home Office. All this however raises concerns, for example:
1. The concept of ‘legal’ may be left to the unilateral interpretation of future governments.
British decision-makers continually try to restrict the interpretation of the EU law and are continually challenged through the European Court of Justice. Any small and petty excuses have already been used to deny the ‘legal’ status of EU citizens, depriving them of basic rights and reducing them to destitution, such as gaps of only 10 days between jobs and benefit periods. More worrying, while the ECJ established that part-time workers are ‘legal’ residents, the British government is now trying to exclude from this right EU citizens who work under 24 hours per week.
2. Many EU citizens who have been allowed to live in the UK for many years may now risk deportation because they have never lived ‘legally’ here.
Many EU citizens have been allowed to be ‘ordinary’ residents in the UK for decades, despite the fact that they did not formally satisfy the EU laws; for example, self sufficient people without a Comprehensive Sickness Insurance. These EU citizens do not ‘legally’ live in the UK and risk being left unprotected.
3. Any rights agreed in the Brexit negotiations may be subject to formal and expensive requirements and to the whims of individual decision-makers.
Recent attempts from EU citizens to receive documentation from the Home Office confirming their EU rights, which they currently enjoy automatically, have encountered difficulties, such as costs, bureaucratic hurdles and even rejections for petty reasons. We are worried that an obligation to obtain documentation from the Home Office as a condition for a right to reside could leave millions of EU citizens undocumented and unable to enjoy their rights.
I urge that you, as my MP, commit yourself to inclusiveness and fairness and to use all your powers to ensure:
- That all EU citizens who have resided in the UK, either ‘legally’ or ‘ordinarily’, will receive a guarantee that they can continue to live in the UK as ‘settled’, and that they will enjoy equality of treatment with British citizens, including access to the welfare and healthcare system, for the rest of their lives.
- That this right is extended to their family.
- That this right is embodied in a treaty between the UK and EU, that is arbitrated by an independent judicial body.
- That this right is not impeded by bureaucratic or expensive procedures.
- That this same right is given to all the UK citizens who have resided, either ‘legally’ or ‘ordinarily’, in other EU countries.
- That the EU negotiators ringfence the agreement on citizens’ rights from the rest of the Brexit negotiations. This is critical in order that people’s rights are preserved if the negotiations break down over other matters.