Brexit: EU citizens in UK at risk of 'devastating consequences' on housing and jobs, MPs warn

Ministers accused of ignoring dangers that have wrecked the lives of the Windrush generation by failing to provide physical documents

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 23 July 2018 00:05 BST
What is the Brexit 'transition'?

EU citizens in the UK are being put at risk of “devastating consequences” after Brexit, including losing out on housing and jobs, MPs warn today.

The government’s plans to grant them “settled status” is heavily criticised for creating the same dangers that have ruined the lives of members of the Windrush generation.

EU nationals are set to be given a digital code to prove their status – but the Commons Brexit committee has branded the idea confusing and dependent on the goodwill of employers and landlords.

Its report urges ministers to distribute easy-to-use physical documents, warning people will otherwise be shunned by bosses and landlords fearful of fines if they employ or rent to an illegal immigrant.

“The experience of the Windrush generation shows that, where errors occur, it can lead to devastating consequences for individuals and their families,” the committee says.

“We are also concerned about the potential for fraud and the incentive for individuals to be exploited if they cannot persuade an employer or landlord of their status.”

Ministers have hailed the progress made on citizens’ rights as one of the big wins from the Brussels talks, but the committee warned that “substantial issues remain unresolved”.

Its report also calls on 27 remaining EU states to finally set out how 1 million British expats in their country can guarantee their status, warning they had been “left in the dark”.

The UK government must redouble its efforts to protect their ongoing free movement between the 27 countries, which is under threat, it says.

And the committee backs the European parliament by calling for fees to be waived to register for settled status – provided UK citizens in the EU are offered the same.

The Home Office has set the cost at £65 for adults and £32.50 for a child under 16, arguing that is “less than the price of a passport”.

Ministers must also clear up what will happen to EU citizens who fail to apply for settled status by a deadline of June 2021 – six months after the end of the planned post-Brexit transition period.

Hilary Benn, the committee’s chairman, said the government had implied that citizens’ rights were “all sorted”, but warned: “The evidence we have heard suggests it is far from being finalised.

“These are people who have made their lives in the EU in good faith, or came to live and work in the UK, paying taxes, raising families and putting down roots.

“As things stand, both groups are likely to lose some of the rights they had previously. That’s not fair and it’s why we want to see further progress quickly.”

The criticism comes after Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, hinted that – even in a no-deal Brexit – the UK would unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU citizens here.

Theresa May has been criticised for refusing to act in the two years since the referendum, having blocked David Cameron’s proposal to guarantee all rights back in 2016.

A government spokesperson defended its plans for settled status, saying: “The process will be straightforward and streamlined and we will support applicants to get the right outcome.”

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