With this week marking one year until Britain officially leaves the EU, HuffPost is running a series of blogs answering big questions still left unanswered about our Brexit future. Today, the3million campaigner Maike Bohn writes on when we will have an answer on EU citizens rights. Follow the series on #BrexitFuture
EU citizens living in the UK and their counterparts, UK citizens living in the EU, have been through a rocky 18 months.
Despite the 19 March announcement by the negotiators that citizens’ rights have been agreed in principle, the fundamental issue remains: in one year’s time all EU citizens living in the UK will see the biggest wholesale withdrawal of rights in post-war history. A still undefined new status might give most of them access to the majority of those rights again – unless of course there is no deal or they get rejected on the basis of still unknown criteria.
With exactly a year to go until Britain withdraws from the EU nothing has been finalised, ring-fenced or guaranteed.
Despite the promise made during the negotiations that we will retain all our EU rights, we are still waiting for the UK government to agree the following: cost free and burden free registration, the presumption that we are lawful residents, a robust legal oversight of our rights and to protect citizens’ rights through ring-fencing in case of a no-deal outcome.
As Marlies Haselton from the3million writes:
“I went from just being a Dutch woman married to a Brit, living my life in the UK as part of the furniture, to being shocked and baffled by a referendum in which I had no voice, to discovering I couldn’t secure a Permanent Residency in order to gain British citizenship, to realising I just had to wait till politicians would stop using me as bargaining chip and guarantee my existing rights - which they didn’t, to internalising an avalanche of anti immigrant rhetoric in the media, to hearing on social media I wasn’t integrated because I never became British and I should go back, to finding out that Settled Status is HMG’s idea of security, to realising it’s very thin on details and I’m still in the dark about if I qualify for it or not for the same reasons I don’t qualify for PR, to resigning to another year in limbo.
So, forgive me for being a bit pessimistic and skeptical and anxious and angry and sometimes even unreasonable, I’m only human.”
We are the children of the European project and our rights and freedoms are under threat. Ever since MPs rejected an amendment by the Lords to guarantee EU citizens’ rights unilaterally before the Brexit negotiations began, assurances of good faith have been undermined by inaction or ill will towards immigrants. The most recent example is a government proposal for new data protection rules to exclude those in immigration procedures. Which means if I am the unlucky subject of the Home Office’s 10% error rate in processing applications for settled status I won’t be able to access data held on me to contest a rejection.
While the government has stated that their new system for registering the over three million EU citizens living in the UK will be ‘simple, transparent and streamlined’, they are seeking to stop these citizens from accessing data held on them.
We cannot allow there to be grey areas or omissions in the Withdrawal Agreement as that will be our safety blanket once Britain leaves the EU. If that blanket doesn’t cover us all or ends up being threadbare then hundreds of thousands of us will risk being left out in the cold.
Our biggest issue is to make sure no one gets left behind by the registration process and that no future UK government can turn back the clock and take our rights away or change our status.
A year is not a long time and the devil is in the detail. There are hundreds of outstanding questions over the new status for EU citizens living in the UK. The forthcoming local elections in May might provide the first and last opportunity for EU nationals to ask those questions and show their feelings at the ballot box. The Home Office has not yet guaranteed that EU citizens’ current right to vote in local elections will be maintained after Britain leaves the EU.
We are still the same people as before the referendum: neighbours, friends, colleagues. But now singled-out, specifically targeted, soon with a special ID and lesser rights. Ask yourself: how would you feel if this happened to you?