Drawing on her unique personal perspective as a European who has made her home in this country for decades, Bath MP Wera Hobhouse highlighted the human cost of Brexit and the Tory Government’s hostile treatment of EU citizens.
She called for physical proof of settled status without which many European citizens residing in this country will find themselves in legal limbo.
In her speech in the House of Commons, Ms. Hobhouse said:
“Nobody who campaigned to leave the EU will have considered the human cost of Brexit and, despite many heartbreaking stories, the Tory Government still do not. EU citizens have been treated appallingly, and their hardship continues. Many find themselves in legal limbo and fear that their status will become unlawful. For those who moved to the UK—decades ago in some cases—and have lived, studied or worked here and have fallen in love or started a family here, this country has become their home, but the future is uncertain for all those who have not become British citizens.
“For those with pre-settled status, the situation is even worse. The Government must show that they are serious about the rights of EU citizens and, at the very least, provide them with physical proof of status to prevent discrimination. Many EU citizens, including constituents in Bath, are struggling with the untried, untested digital-only status, and 89% have expressed unhappiness about a lack of physical proof. It is incomprehensible that the Government are still not listening to them.
“EU citizens seem no longer to be of any interest to this Tory Government. It is hostile Britain par excellence. Each time an EU citizen returns to their adopted home, they cannot be certain that they will be allowed in. Such fears are not unfounded. Here is another example why digital-only proof does not work. Research from the Residential Landlords Association found that 20% of landlords were less likely to consider letting their property to an EU or EEA national. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found that, in 115 mystery shopping inquiries, only three landlords explicitly said that they were willing to conduct an online check; 85% did not even respond.
“People are required to prove their immigration status throughout their lives. They could be seeking a new job, finding a place to live, opening a bank account, getting treatment at a hospital or returning home from a holiday abroad. The big promises about a simple proof of the right to be here have been shamelessly broken. The EU has mandated all member states to issue British citizens a uniform physical residence document; the UK must reciprocate.
“As a European migrant, I feel the pain and sadness of all such EU citizens that Britain—a country that we once admired and chose as our home—has turned into a country of small-minded insularity. I ask the Government once more to show more sense and compassion towards EU citizens. Economies and societies are about people. For decades, the UK has welcomed and nurtured those who came. The country was a good example of an open, tolerant society and has seen the benefits of being modern and diverse. The pendulum is swinging the other way, not by accident but by political design.
Concluding her speech, Wera said:
“Britain continues to be geographically, historically and economically part of the European world. Europe is a continent with few barriers between countries, where academic, business and private life is shared across non-existent borders. The UK is no longer part of this open Europe. Those with choices, those with skills and qualifications, the best and especially the young—those the Government want to attract—have already moved or will move and not return. This is the tragedy of my adopted country.”
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