Growing calls to scrap ‘settled status’ fee for EU nationals

Calls are mounting to waive the fee EU nationals have to pay to stay in the UK after Brexit. The Mayor of London, the Catholic Church and members of parliament from across the political spectrum said the British government should offer ‘settled status’ free of charge to EU nationals who live in the UK. A petition was launched this week.

The scheme, whose live trial opens on January 21, has been designed to replace the EU permanent residence system as the UK leaves the European Union. All EU nationals will have to apply for “settled status” by 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if there is no Brexit deal. The cost of the application is 65 GBP for adults and 32.5 GBP for under 16s.

This week More United, a political movement inspired by Jo Cox, the British MP who was murdered in June 2016, launched a petition asking the Home Secretary to cancel the fee. The petition supports activist groups the3million and In Limbo.

We believe your plans to make EU citizens already living in the UK pay to apply to stay in their own home are unfair. The application fee could cost a family upwards of £200 – that’s a monthly food bill for the average household. This fee adds injury to insult for those who have spent years making their homes in towns and cities across the country but didn’t have a say in the Brexit referendum, which caused the current issue.

More United, the3million and In Limbo letter to the Home Secretary.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, also called on ministers to make the system available for free. “The Home Office now faces the unprecedented task of registering 3.4 million EU citizens resident in the UK. Many people will find this process inaccessible and unaffordable. As a matter of fairness, the government should waive the settled status fee for EU nationals and their families who were resident in the UK before the referendum took place,” he said.

The Catholic Church added its voice to the critics too. “We strongly oppose the decision to charge people for securing the rights they already have. This is not only unprincipled but will also create a barrier for larger families or people facing financial difficulties,” says a statement by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Similar considerations were made in recent weeks by politicians from several political families, from the Scottish National Party to the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Tories.

MP Huw Merriman said in parliament: “We should be welcoming our friends, our neighbours, our essential workforce.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May responded that the cost of settled status is in line with that of EU’s permanent residence (85 GBP). But permanent residence was a right automatically acquired under EU law, and people had to request a permanent residence card only if they applied for British citizenship.

Employers footing the bill

Many businesses, including Heathrow Airport, restaurant chain Carluccio and pub groups Fuller Smith & Turner and Young & Co., have announced they will cover the settled status fee for their EU staff.

“There would be no Carluccio’s without one man making the journey from Europe to London,” said Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones.

“It is critical for us to have diverse, happy and valued colleagues. Many of our people are worried about Brexit and this move will provide reassurance and certainty,” Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland Kaye added in a statement.

Trade union Unison encouraged all employers to cover this cost for their employees. British academic institutions such as Oxford University and the London School of Economics, the Scottish parliament, the Greater London Authority (including Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police), as well as some NHS Trusts have also decided to foot the bill.

But self-employed, unemployed persons and vulnerable categories are expected to pay their own fee, unless they already have a permanent residence card.

EU nationals could live, study and work in the UK based on EU’s free movement rules that will no longer apply after Brexit. The settled status scheme has been agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement from the EU and the British government has confirmed it will be rolled out even if there is no Brexit deal.

A live trial of the application system will open on January 21. The scheme is expected to be fully operational on 30 March 2019. More information on the UK government website.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.

Photo via Pixabay.

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