The use and abuse of EU citizens

The Home Office is mistreating them, while Remainers are exploiting them

Tim Black

Tim Black

Topics Brexit Politics UK

The UK government’s EU settlement scheme is a mess.

It is meant to allow the UK’s 3.5million EU citizens to acquire ‘settled status’ and remain living in the UK after Brexit, with exactly the same access and rights to healthcare, benefits, work, education and so on as they currently have.

But it is not working. And that means the Home Office is doing something unforgivable: it is screwing with people’s lives.

Stories of the Home Office’s stoney-faced ill-treatment of applicants abound. Richard Bertinet, a chef who has lived in the UK since 1988, was denied settled status because he pressed the wrong button on the online application form. Anna Amato, who has lived in Bristol for 55 years after emigrating with her parents from Italy, was told she had not provided enough evidence to document her status, despite spending £35 on postage, such was the volume of her documentation. And a clearly distraught Portuguese woman, who has been living and working in the UK for 20 years, interrupted a Sky News broadcast last week to say she’d been denied settled status because of an issue with her National Insurance details.

The anecdotes keep coming.

But there is also a broader, systematic problem with the settlement scheme. To acquire settled status the government says you have to have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period by 31 December 2020 (or by the date the UK leaves the EU without a deal). If you haven’t done that, you will be only given pre-settled status, which you will have until such a time you can prove you’ve lived in the UK continuously for five years. But up to that point, everything is up in the air. Think of it as a form of civil purgatory.

And too many, it seems, are being wrongly plunged into precisely this ‘pre-settled’ purgatory (a huge 42 per cent of applicants in July), despite having lived in the UK for longer than five years.

There is a definite reek to it all of bureaucratic incompetence and computer-says-no intransigence. UK prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid have sought to reassure people, with Javid saying: ‘There shouldn’t be a single person that should be concerned about their status.’ But their words will do little to comfort those thousands of EU nationals facing a long, distressing period of uncertainty, merely because they made a mistake on a form, or were unable to provide a document they never thought they’d need to retain.

It is, then, a needless mess, causing upset among an already anxious section of the British populace.

But, for the anti-Brexit crowd, this is not merely incompetence. It is an opportunity to prove, once again, that Brexit was nothing but an exercise in xenophobia. And it is a chance they have seized with a barely disguised glee.

We have seen journalists, with a Revoke Article 50 glint in their tweets, desperately soliciting further anecdotes of Home Office mistreatment; Remain-at-all-costs politicians, such as the Nazi-Finder General David Lammy, quickly holding up the depressing anecdotes and worrying stats as further proof of the Leave campaign’s ultimate basis in ‘xenophobia and lies’; and Twitter predictably awash with smug, told-you-so accusations of racism levelled at anyone who thinks leaving the EU is a good idea.

It is ironic that this fascism-spotting hysteria has gripped the collective psyche of the very same political constituency that spent so long after Brexit championing ‘the facts’, and mourning the emergence of the post-truth era. For as incompetent and upsetting as the EU settlement scheme has so far proved, it simply is not true to say that its problems are born of xenophobia, or the institutionalised ‘demonisation of immigrants’. They’re born, rather, of the worst excesses of unfeeling, rule-bound bureaucracy, of an all-too-typical governmental incompetence, and, perhaps, ultimately, of a fear of making headline-grabbing mistakes – hence the over-assignment of the pre-settled status, which allows the Home Office to play for time while further documentation of an individual’s residence and work history is gathered (or not).

But the anti-Brexit crowd refuses to see the callous incompetence of the Home Office for what it is. They refuse to remember the pledges of prominent Brexiters to protect the existing rights of all EU citizens living in the UK. And what’s more, they refuse to grasp the truth of Brexit Britain — namely, that it really is not very racist or xenophobic. Quite the opposite, in fact, as shown by everything from the public outcry over the Windrush scandal, to surveys showing that immigration for many, Brexiters and Remainers alike, no longer registers as a major concern among nearly 90 per cent of the public.

And, yet, so post-truth and irrational have hardcore Remainers become that they can’t see the factual tolerance of the British people for the trees of fascism. So now they’re using the struggles of EU citizens to do what they have been doing since 2016: misrepresenting and traducing Brexit as racist.

Tim Black is a spiked columnist.

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Marvin Jones

10th September 2019 at 12:26 pm

Assuming that we leave on a no deal Brexit, we become a third country to the EU. So why are the 3/5 million citizens of the 27 countries of the EU not considered as foreign. Why are they being offered all these special statuses that we have earned, why are they fleeing France, an EU country engulfed in the ECHR to illegally invade our shores? Does the end to free movement have a beginning?

Snake Oil Cat

3rd September 2019 at 7:54 pm

There is more than just garden variety bureaucratic incompetence going on here. Hostility to EU citizens has been built in to the Brexit project throughout, at the highest levels of government. These are just a few examples:-

In 2015, as soon as it was known there was going to be a referendum, Theresa May changed the rules for EU citizens wanting to apply for British citizenship so that they would first have to fill in an 85 page form and wait another 6 months to get a permanent residence card before being eligible to apply. This was done deliberately, to make sure that fewer people who had benefitted from free movement would get the chance to vote to keep it.
The government voted down amendments to the Article 50 legislation that were designed to safeguard the rights of EU citizens.
It took a full year after the referendum before the government came up with the earliest draft proposals for the settlement scheme. A long time wait when you’ve just been told, 17.4 million times, that you’re not wanted and not welcome.
Theresa May referred to EU citizens in her speeches as “queue jumpers” and “citizens of nowhere”
EU citizens are not going to be given an actual document with which to prove themselves to employers, landlords, banks, the NHS, etc, etc. Landlords who have been proven in the High Court to be routinely turning away black and Asian prospective tenants will start doing the same to white people with foreign sounding names or accents.
When the government started issuing flurries of technical papers explaining the arrangements for No Deal, EU citizens rights came lower down the priority list than such weighty matters as labelling of tobacco products. When the announcement did come it said the position would be materially worse than under the deal – shorter deadlines to apply for settled status, shorter deadlines for family reunion, and no protection under international law.
And now we have the announcement that new rules will be brought in to end free movement on Day 1 of a No Deal exit. That is, millions of EU citizens who had thought they had until December 2020 to get their settled status will immediately be subject to Hostile Environment checks and risk being fired, evicted, having their bank accounts frozen and their driving licences confiscated, and denied life saving medical treatment.

Just as the great British public is becoming demonstrably less racist and xenophobic, the British state is becoming more so. And Spiked is on the side of the state, not the public.

James Knight

3rd September 2019 at 7:09 pm

Totally agree. And what’s more we should not have wasted time on negotiating with the EU over citizens rights It shouldn’t need a negotiation or an agreement to do the right thing for people who came here in good faith. The same for UK citizens in the EU.

Gareth Edward KING

3rd September 2019 at 7:02 pm

For sure, it sounds, as ever, part of the on-going anti-Brexit propaganda machine. People, please just get over the result to leave! These ‘remainers’, really, do tell us what it is that is so wonderful about the EU? Could it be the southern European brain-drain? Could it be that the ‘gilets jaunes’ really do have it all completely wrong? The 2021 French elections are dependant on whether this time Macron does convince the 30 million French to vote for him and not Le Pen. And if they don’t, does that mean that the French will indeed hold their own referéndum? French eyes are on our doing very well economically after our leaving October 31st. What about the Italians? La Liga is on 38% in the polls. ‘Cinque Stelle’, the erstwhile anti-systemers, have agreed to a pact with the PD. I cannot see the Italians forgiving them at the next polls, they’ll be thrashed! The Italian Lower House has just agreed to introduce a parallel currency: the BOT, much to the chagrin of the EU Commission. If there is so much discord across the water, why can’t the ‘remainders’ accept defeat with grace so that we can set a good example and deal the first death knell to the EU?

michael savell

3rd September 2019 at 4:27 pm

Paul Robson,This is,of course,the ideal time to check on non EU immigrants,let’s see what a mess they make of it.There will however be tit for tat if they start haranguing EU immigrants,particularly those who have retired here.At least 2-3 million of brits live abroad and times are not exactly safe for them.I lived in France for nearly 10 years before coming home july 2018 and the pressure was on brits then to take out french nationality,think what will happen next year.

Andreas Kalafatis

3rd September 2019 at 2:45 pm

I am an Greek citizen and I can tell you that the procedure is quick and painless ,if you want to sensationalize an issue it is all too easy to find one or two cases and make them weep in front of the camera to justify your position ,this is not journalism it is propaganda .
Did any one check the reason these people were denied ?fake passports ,criminal records etc……
I am sick to death of the scaremongering dished out as real news by the ‘respectable’ media outlets.
The British people were asked and they decided to leave the EU , the rest is froth and misinformation !….. just get on with it establishment ,it might stick in your throats ,but you will have to swallow in the end!………
Or you can become a banana republic like your EU friends in Greece and Spain ,the former completely ignored a referendum in 2015 with a 60+% majority!………….the later sends in the ‘guardia civil'(franco’s storm troupers) to beat up old men and women for voting in Catalonia!………….
You do not know how lucky you are living in the UK ,where the laws are respected and adhered to,no other country in the world has that as part of its mentality ,only Britain !………..

Paul Robson

3rd September 2019 at 3:32 pm

Hm. So people make mistakes on their application “pressing the wrong button” and are rejected as a consequence. I wonder what this “button” was, and if it was perhaps something relevant. For example, having recently filled in ESTA forms (for visiting the USA),if you click the “I am an Iraqi Terrorist” box, it will affect your application.

The obvious question to ask about these mistakes (which will happen in the best run systems) is, is it permanent, or can you re-apply ?


3rd September 2019 at 12:54 pm

“immigration no longer registers as a major concern among nearly 90 per cent of the public”. But the same surveys showed it was a major concern up to and at the time of the referendum. The public has changed it mind. Only the pro Brexit establishment hasn’t.

Ven Oods

3rd September 2019 at 1:28 pm

Of course ‘surveys’ (polls) reassured Mrs May that she had an unassailable lead, just before her snap election went tits-up.

Jerry Owen

3rd September 2019 at 2:03 pm

And the referendum was going to be won by ‘remain’ according to polls.

Paul Robson

3rd September 2019 at 3:33 pm

Depends on the polls. I have never been convinced that outside a few particular issues, EU immigration has been the driver. Immigration from non EU countries is the concern.

Jerry Owen

3rd September 2019 at 12:03 pm

I have seen how Polish and other Eastern European immigrants have decimated the industries of many white working class trades people first hand.
it is unfair, it causes devastation for many indigenous families.
I do not want EU migrants to have any kind of automatic right to be here. If we need them to fill jobs that need filling fine, that includes people from outside the EU as well. They need to show that they can support themselves for a decent period of time, and I do not want them benefitting from our welfare state for a period of some years or the NHS that my forefathers paid for to aid those injured in the war.
Economic sensibilities and the wishes of the indigenous population need to be discussed far more.

Jim Lawrie

3rd September 2019 at 10:18 am

Many of these people have been operating through fly by night, limited liability companies, undercutting us and paying in nothing. Now that the game is up they claim “living and working here for 20 years”. Is it not the job of a journalist to check such clams before broadcasting them? A pastiche of cut and paste from other sources, themselves only hearsay, is no basis for an article, but does make for good propaganda.

As for “EU citizens”, that concept and those people belong in the EU, and we voted to leave. We never agreed to give them the rights of British citizens, and over 17 million of us made that clear when asked.

Are Spіked now revealing their visionary version of Brexit?

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