Members of the European parliament wrote to the UK Home Secretary raising concerns about the planned system to register the 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.
Free movement rules that apply within the European Union will be dropped by the UK once the country leaves the EU, and the British government decided EU nationals living in Britain will have to obtain ‘settled status’ to secure their right to stay after Brexit. Details have started to emerge on how this system will work and a team of the Home Office presented plans to Members of the European parliament last week in Brussels.
But MEPs were unconvinced and Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit coordinator at the European parliament, wrote a letter to the Home Secretary on behalf of the Brexit steering group making recommendations on how the process should work. This is what MEPs said:
1. EU nationals should register, not apply, to see their rights confirmed. Once they submit the necessary data, the British government should deliver a formal response within two working days “after which the absence of response should be taken as tacit acceptance of the registration”.
2. The solutions chosen for the registration should “have universal application”, that is all citizens affected should be able to access them. The digital app that is currently being tested allows to scan passports. But the letter notes it would not be suitable for citizens who do not have IDs with a chip or for children below 16 who are not entitled to have a biometric passport. It also emerged that the the app would not work on iPhones. And while other online forms are being developed, many people might not be able to access Internet. MEPs say the option to register on paper should be available too.
3. A network of contact points should be made available across the country, e.g. in public libraries or citizens’ advice services or local authorities, to ensure passports can be scanned in a secure environment. The procedure should avoid sending passports by post given the risk of loss and the impacts on the ability to travel, say MEPs. Home visits would also help people in need going through the application.
4. Family members should be be given the option to register together using one form, to avoid different treatment for members of the same family.
5. The registration should be free of charge. “It is unacceptable that citizens that were never consulted on Brexit should have to pay to retain their own rights,” say MEPs. They also note that the cost of 72 GBP per person could be substantive for an entire family.
6. The processing of personal data should comply with EU rules on data protection.
MEPs also asked clarifications regarding planned criminality checks, appeal and redress and the future authority that will oversee the implementation of the withdrawal agreement in the UK.
“In a spirit of collaboration, MEPs have today set out a number of proposals in order to ensure the registration of EU citizens in the UK is dealt with in an efficient, flexible, timely and sensitive manner. In light of the Windrush scandal and given the large numbers of citizens affected, both the EU and the UK must work together to get this right,” said Guy Verhofstadt.
The letter was sent to Sajid Javid, who has been appointed UK Home Secretary after the departure of Amber Rudd. Rudd resigned on Sunday after having “inadvertently misled” a parliamentary committee by saying that the Home Office did not have removal targets for illegal immigrants.
Last week, according to Politico, the UK Home Office was forced to hold a briefing for EU diplomats due to mounting fears that EU citizens might become the next victims of tightening immigration rules as it happened to people who moved to the UK from the Caribbeans after the war (the so-called ‘Windrush generation‘).
The Home Office is still working at the settled status procedure. Securing citizens’ rights is a priority for the European parliament, which will have to endorse the final Brexit deal.
Photo: Guy Verhofstadt, by