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Analysis

Home Office must get grip. No wonder EU citizens are worried

by Luke Lythgoe | 01.11.2018

The Home Office needs to get a grip. Garbled messages from politicians and officials on the status of EU citizens after Brexit risks hard-working Europeans abandoning the UK in droves. That isn’t just upturning their lives. It will make the UK a less prosperous and less dynamic place.

EU citizens in the UK were alarmed by comments on Tuesday from immigration minister Caroline Nokes. She told MPs that, if we crash out of the EU with no deal, employers will have to go through “adequately rigorous checks” to confirm EU nationals’ right to work in the UK.

This panicked EU workers, who didn’t know if they would have adequate documents for these checks, and employers suddenly facing the complicated and costly implementation of a screening system for EU-born employees with just five months until Brexit.

Nokes’ mess was cleared up in a Home Office statement last night. At the same time, home secretary Sajid Javid also went on ITV’s Peston to end the confusion. But in the process he said there would have to be a “sensible transition period” for EU citizens in a no-deal scenario. This directly contradicted earlier parliamentary evidence by the Home Office’s top civil servant, Shona Dunn, who said: “If [no-deal] were the case, the prime minister has been very clear that she would want free movement turned off at that point in time.”

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The Home Office’s particular brand of chaos and confusion hangs over everything it does on Brexit. There are concerns over the digital application process due to be in place by March 2019. It’s still being live tested on a small sample, but some are doubting the success of the current trial. The mobile app in particular has problems, including its passport scanning function and inability to be used on iPhones.

Another concern for EU nationals is the two-step application process: once for “pre-settled status” then again for settled status once they’ve been in the country five years. Might the political situation or requirements of the application process change in between? Meanwhile other EEA citizens – from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – have had no concrete assurances over what their status will be.

Maybe EU citizens would feel more at ease if the Home Office seemed more competent. The last 36 hours is just the latest example of why they don’t.

This isn’t just stopping EU citizens in the UK from leading normal lives. It threatens our economy. EEA citizens paid  £4.7 billion net into the public purse in 2016/17. They keep our industries and public services like the NHS running – but the number of EU nurses leaving the NHS rose 29% in 2017/18 compared to the previous year, while the number of EU nurses joining plunged by 87%.

People from other EU countries are our friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. But even if the government’s hand of friendship is to be taken at face value, this government’s Brexit incompetence may yet drive them away. That will leave us all poorer.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “Home Office must get grip. No wonder EU citizens are worried”

  • I think virtually every soul in this country, whether of the brexiteer persuasion or with a normally functioning brain, would dearly love to see some competence blossom among the ignoramuses dragging this country towards a very messy future.

  • Just listening to Immigration Minister Noakes, like Raab, she deflects the entire blame for continuing uncertainty to British nationals in Europe onto EU Governments.
    What I don’t understand is, how can it be the EU Governments’ fault in the case of the many retired Britons? The uncertainty is primarily due to concerns over their UK pensions and the reciprocal healthcare agreement being honoured in the event of No Deal. In both cases, these are dependant on payments from the state of origin i.e. the UK. These are people who will generally have paid national insurance into the UK system during their working life.

    Secondly, it is more than impertinent to start blaming EU Governments for what is essentially a problem not caused by them. They are not the ones who want Brexit. It is the May Government which wants to break off ties and create barriers.

  • Were people aware that there was a human chain formed between Parliament and Downing Street by EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in the Europe on 5th November? This was to hand in a letter to Theresa May demanding that citizens rights be ring-fenced should the worst happen and we crash out with No Deal. There was virtually no coverage of this in the British media. This in contrast to lots of media coverage across Europe including the evening news on the main German tv channel.
    https://www.tagesschau.de/multimedia/video/video-467871.html