Brexit: Theresa May urged to ensure EU citizens do not have to pay to stay in UK after ‘shameful’ treatment
MPs say government should meet the cost of ‘settled status’ applications – and heap pressure on private employers to do the same
The government should meet the cost of “settled status” applications by EU nationals working in the public sector – and pile pressure on private employers to do the same, MPs say.
Meanwhile, the government is facing a legal challenge after quietly throwing new hurdles in the way of bids for settled status.
Now a cross-party group of MPs is urging the prime minister to follow the lead of the Scottish government, and a handful of other employers, which have waived the fees of £65 for an adult and £32.50 for under-16s.
Its letter reads: “It is shameful that the UK government is lagging behind other public and private sector organisations on this.
“The government should immediately commit to meeting the cost of settled status applications for all EU citizens working for the public sector and publicly encourage private sector employers to do the same.
“Both the public and private sectors rely on the talent and dedication of EU citizens. They deserve much better than the uncertainty and confusion they have been subjected to as a result of the Brexit negotiations.”
The letter says that “with only a few months to go” until Brexit “the future remains uncertain for over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK”.
And it attacks “the mounting confusion about additional checks and barriers” for people not granted settled status in time.
Last week, Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, was forced to backtrack after saying employers would check if EU nationals had the right to work, or were newly arrived, if the UK crashed out of the bloc without a deal.
No 10 then admitted it had yet to decide whether free movement of EU citizens would therefore have to continue after a no-deal Brexit.
The legal challenge has been launched by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which has accused ministers of breaking a pledge that applications to stay will be straightforward.
Ministers had promised only three checks: on nationality, residence in the UK, and whether the applicant had been convicted of serious criminal offences.
However, the rules now state that settled status can be refused for anyone facing deportation for not exercising their rights under EU treaties – to be either working, studying or self-sufficient.
The JCWI believes hundreds of thousands of EU citizens living in the UK are now vulnerable to removal orders, some for lacking comprehensive health insurance.
In the Commons last week, the prime minister ducked a call to waive fees, simply telling MPs: “We are protecting EU citizens’ rights.”
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