Brexit: European Parliament has ‘grave concerns’ about Home Office EU citizen settlement scheme

Jon Stone
The European Parliament's seat in Strasbourg: AP

The European Parliament has said it has “grave concerns” over the UK’s treatment of EU citizens after Brexit and has accused Boris Johnson’s government of putting them in jeopardy.

MEPs on Wednesday backed a resolution by 610 votes in favour to 29 against with 68 abstentions criticising the UK’s handling of the situation.

The resolution also stressed that their approval of the Brexit deal later this month would depend on new assurances being given from the UK side.

The EU’s political groups united to accuse the UK government of failing to protect EU nationals from future discrimination by employers and landlords, and said Europeans should be “issued with a physical document as proof of their right to reside” in Britain.

EU countries have watched the Home Office’s bungled handling of the Windrush scandal with horror and worry that the same thing will happen to their citizens after Brexit.

“The same question came back time and again, with different personal twists,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen during a debate in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

“One came from a young man who came from Benelux, living in the UK who was of course worried about his future. Another came from a British lady who has an Italian husband who was worried about his status, what’s going to happen with him,” she said.

“People want certainty about their lives and their future, and certainty about the future of their loved ones.”

Guy Verhofstadt, the parliament’s Brexit coordinator, meanwhile said: “If they’re not addressed now, before the end of the month, they won’t be on the table before the end of the year.

Pro-EU demonstrators pass the Houses of Parliament (AFP/Getty)

“I cannot imagine that the European Parliament will agree, for example on an FTA (free trade agreement), without solving the problem and the concerns of the EU citizens and UK citizens.”

The resolution calls for the full protections of the divorce deal to be implemented, and questions the independence of the UK’s “independent monitoring authority” for the system. It says better oversight of the body is needed, potentially with input from the EU side itself.

The successful motion also calls on EU countries to provide “legal certainty” for British people living on the continent – where the response has varied by country.

Home Office figures show that around 2.6 million out of three million EU citizens living in the UK had applied for settled status by the end of November 2019.

More than 2.2 million cases have been concluded, with 59 per cent granted full settled status and 41 per cent so-called “pre-settled status”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have done far more than any other EU member state has done for British citizens, and it’s time they adopted a similarly generous approach.”

“We have already provided certainty to 2.5 million people who have been granted status through the EU Settlement Scheme. It’s free, there’s plenty of support available and it provides a secure digital status which can’t be lost, stolen or tampered with.”

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