MPs call for legal clarity for EU citizens

3 Jun 19

The government has not learnt from the failures of the Windrush scandal in drawing up the EU settlement scheme, MPs have warned. 

Many EU citizens could be left uncertain over their future rights and eligibility to remain in the UK after Brexit, the home affairs committee said in a report released last week.

The MPs called on the government to enshrine in law the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK at the time of Brexit. They should be able to live and work here as they have until now, they suggested.

Rather than a way to secure their rights by a particular deadline, the EU settlement scheme should be a way for them to obtain proof of their status, the scrutiny body urged.

Chair of the committee Yvette Cooper said: “The government’s current plans for the EU settlement scheme show they are not learning the lessons from the Windrush scandal.

“The problems faced by the Windrush generation showed how easily individuals can fall through gaps in the system through no fault of their own and how easily lives can be destroyed if the government gets this wrong.”

Hard copy documentation – as well as digital evidence – should also be provided “so there is no risk of miunderstanding or discrimination by employers or landlords”, the committee said.

It recognised vulnerable people were likely to have difficulties applying for the scheme and some – because of lack of awareness – might not even know they needed to apply. 

Member of the committee Stuart McDonald said: “Under government’s current plans too many people, including children and vulnerable individuals, risk falling through the gaps and not accessing the scheme at all.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We disagree with the home affairs select committee’s assessment of the scheme, which is performing well with more than 600,000 applications received by the end of April and hundreds of thousands of people already being granted status.

“The scheme protects the rights of EU citizens in UK law and gives them a secure digital status which, unlike a physical document, cannot be lost, stolen or tampered with.”

The Home Office has allocated £3.75m for the first phase of a public information campaign to highlight the need to apply. 

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