Liberal Democrats

Boris Johnson’s promises to EU citizens are in tatters

The Tories are pushing through new laws to extend the Hostile Environment to EU citizens.

By Alistair Carmichael MP, Dec 10, 2020 2:12

Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister
▲ Image: Chatham House

Remember all those promises made by Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Michael Gove to EU citizens living in the UK? That there’d be “no change” to their rights? That they’d be given “absolute certainty” and “automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain”?

Well, those promises lie in tatters.

Under the new laws passed by the Government, citizens who have applied for Settled Status but not received a decision will lose their rights

The Conservatives are ending free movement on 31st December, and today they are pushing through a piece of legislation to make that happen – under very broad “Henry VIII” powers they awarded themselves in the Immigration Act last month.

After a six-month “grace period”, EU citizens in the UK will see their right to stay taken away at the end of June, unless they have been granted “Settled Status”.

The problem is, the Home Office’s Settled Status scheme is anything but automatic. EU citizens have to apply for the right to stay by the arbitrary 30th June deadline. Many are given “Pre-Settled Status”, which only gives them a temporary right to stay.

And under the new laws the Government is has passed, even EU citizens who have applied for Settled Status but not received a decision yet will lose their rights at the end of June – a clear breach of the Government’s commitments on citizens’ rights under Article 18 of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Windrush Scandal should have been the end of the Hostile Environment, but Priti Patel has kept it in full force

No one seriously believes that the Home Office will be able to grant Settled Status to everyone who’s eligible by June.

Thousands will be left effectively undocumented and subject to the Tories’ Hostile Environment.

The Hostile Environment effectively turns teachers, doctors, landlords and bank clerks into border guards. For example, the “Right to Rent” scheme has been proven in court to cause racial discrimination in access to housing.

The appalling Windrush Scandal demonstrated how people who have every right to live in the UK are wrongfully denied healthcare, made homeless, detained and even deported.

It should have been the end of the Hostile Environment, but – despite her apologies – Priti Patel has kept it in full force.

Liberal Democrats voted against this new legislation and will continue our fight for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK. Rather than enlarging the Hostile Environment by extending to the EU citizens, the Government should be scrapping it altogether.

Europeans who’ve made their lives here contribute enormously to our economy, our public services and our society. They must not become the victims of a new Windrush-style scandal.

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