EU citizens’ rights : No-deal Brexit, the Last mile lobby & *un*Settled status

I know what you’re thinking. I am French, as they called a “high-skilled” migrant, an Electrical engineer (especially as we lack of them). You will told me that I will be fine, or I should be fine. If I tell you no, you will reassure me saying it will all be fine. Well, let me tell you, I will not be fine. Neither your EU employees if they do not have the UK citizenship, regardless their qualifications, or high/low skilled.

If you’re a business owner or working in HR, you might have discovered the news horrified last week with the shambles created by the Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes (more info here and reaction from the3million here). She was unprepared, ignorant and got confused about what will happen to EU citizens in the case of a no-deal Brexit. She said she expects employers to perform right-to-work checks on EU employees. While acknowledging this might be challenging as no one will be able to differentiate newly arrivals from those who live here for decades. EU citizens arriving after the 29th March 2019 will have to have a mandatory Settled status. But those who have been here before the 29th of March 2019 will have up to the end of June 2021 to apply. You can imagine that will be tricky.

You will face during the recruitment process some EU citizens who will have to present a Settled status that you will have to check, and other EU citizens who will not have to present the Settled status are they are not legally required to have it and you will not be allowed to discard their applications due to not having a Settled status. Obviously, you will have no way to know what rule to apply as you will not have any official way to confirm if your candidates arrived before or after the 29th of March 2019. If you decide to only accept EU citizens with a Settled Status, you will discriminate those who were here, even for decades. This will not be legal and could be challenged. But if you employ an EU citizen who needs to have the Settled status and you don’t check it, you risk a civil penalty up to 20,000£ per employees which you failed to see if their immigration status allowed them to work. “It’s also a criminal offence if the employer knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that a person who is subject to immigration control and who needs permission to work does not have it” (source). As this same source mentions, asking for evidence that someone has the right to work is not common practice in the UK. It usually is for high-skill positions, but not for low-skill ones. The Home secretary, Sajid Javid, clarified that if there is a transition period, employers will not have to perform right to work checks (source).

But what will happen in case of a no-deal Brexit?

The time is ticking for EU citizens and we have 5 months left and the UK government is crystal clear: Freedom of Movement will end on the 29th of March 2019.

Worth to read: “EU Freedom of movement — Brexit: what was the right to work checks debacle really about?

The platform to apply for the Settled status is not live yet and not ready. The government promised it would be easy and a smooth process, by the guidance book contains 59 pages (source). It does not work for half of the population (Apple phone users, and some Android phones [source]). The Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes proudly stated that 1000 EU citizens have gone through the process and got the Settled status in a few months of trials. Fair enough, but what about the other 3.7 million EU citizens? From those trials, 66% applications were straight forward, some required additional evidences and 12.5% of the applications were unresolved cases. Technically not rejected, but not granted with a Settled status. A charity, JCWI, sued the UK over post-Brexit plan for EU nationals. JCWI “argued in its legal challenge lodged with the High Court in London that the Settled status scheme rules were not simple” (source).

Must read :

1. EU citizens, #citizensrights uncertainty, Home Office, Settled Status outreach & money (and Govt profits from it).(https://twitter.com/The3Million/status/1060239642522468355)
2. Read the concerns of the3million about the impact of Settled Status on EU citizens.

The UK government did not learn its lessons following the Windrush scandal, they are installing the ground for a Windrush 2 as they are already changing the rules of the Settled status even if it’s not live yet (source).

How can the Home Office be ready for the 29th of March 2019? How can we trust the Home Office? How can you be ready for the 29th of March 2019? How will you support your EU employees? How will you support your family and friends? …

We, #the5million (British living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK), organised a mass lobby #thelastmile and a human chain (video) from the 10 Downing street to the UK Parliament to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

You can read the full content here.

Picture 1 : Alexandrine Kantor / Picture 2 : British in Europe

We had several speeches from various organisations, unions, activists.

The event was covered in the press world wide (EU, Asia, Africa, Us..). Unfortunately, not in the UK, as my friend Axel pointed it out here.

The lobby went to the UK Parliament where we had 2 commitee rooms booked. We had cross-parties speeches (Conservatives, Labour, Greens, SNP, Libdems, UDI). Even the Under-secretary of State for the department of Exiting the EU, Martin Walker MP, took the time to make a statement and listened to worries citizens living on both sides of the Channel.

As we were in the UK Parliament, we saw the news that an Urgent Question about what will become to our rights in case of a no-deal scenario was asked to the House of Commons, by the Yvette Cooper MP.

We are not reassured.

The twitter activity helped the cause to reach over than 600,000 persons on the lobby day.

What can you do to help us?

We are your family, friends, employee, boss, CEO, fruit pickers, students, carers, nurses, doctors, plumber, electrician, … You need us. Your businesses need us.

Please, support us https://www.the3million.org.uk/

Inform the EU citizens who are not following the news, they need to know and how to be prepared: Settled status checklist. The Home Office will target the most vulnerable first, the Operation Nexus proved us how they treat them. Talk around you, even if it is not comfortable. We’re your people too. By supporting us, you support the British people living in the EU. They are completely forgotten by the UK government. Their fight, is our fight too.