EU citizens – taxation, but no representation

The Conservatives not outlined their plans to secure the rights of non-UK EU citizens in their manifestoes. By contrast, the Liberal Democrats and Greens have placed the need to guarantee the rights of EU citizens front and centre in their pledges to fight a hard Brexit.

Whoever forms the government is slated to begin Brexit negotiations with the EU on 19 June. The rights of non-UK EU citizens is one of three key requirements of the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. In other words, assuming the Conservatives or Labour form the next government, they will not be able to avoid the complex issue of non-UK EU citizens for long.

In their manifesto, the Conservatives continue to pander to a rhetoric of British citizens first and controlled immigration. This rhetoric assumes British citizens are unaffected by the uncertain future of non-UK EU citizens in the UK. Worse still, the Conservatives continue to act as if the rights of non-UK EU citizens are not uncertain and as if nothing has changed since the Brexit referendum. Yet, the Brexit referendum changed everything for non-UK EU citizens, from their status in the UK to their sense of belonging. As Barnier argued in May 2017, the “only cause of uncertainty [for non-UK EU citizens] is Brexit”.

This is consistent with the EUintheUK Survey I conducted last year, which around 3,000 non-UK EU citizens participated in between July and August 2016. The survey showed that for many, the Brexit referendum transformed their image of the UK from a tolerant to an unwelcoming country where many non-UK EU citizens felt unwanted and unrepresented. In other words, many non-UK EU citizens felt the vote to Leave the EU was also a vote against EU citizens.

The Liberal Democrats and Greens understand this uncertainty. But they will not lead the next government. How and when will the next government secure the residency and working rights of non-UK EU citizens? How will they secure their pensions? Three million people in the UK are waiting for, and need, answers to these questions.

This piece was originally posted on EUROPP’s website: UK general election preview: What to look out for as Britain goes to the polls

Advice to non-UK EU Citizens After the Referendum: Become a Permanent Resident (if you can)

As part of a project I’m beginning on the meaning and practice of EU citizenship in the UK after the UK-EU referendum, I am conducting research on the experiences of migrants, as well as their rights in the UK. Last night, I attended an  event hosted by a legal firm and London chambers on EU migrants’ rights after ‘Brexit’.

As the opening speaker remarked, the event was designed to “calm people down and prevent panic” concerning the rights of non-UK EU/EEA citizens after the referendum.

From the perspective of lawyers and unions (who themselves seem far more concerned with the rights of their non-UK EU members than the Labour Party), the message is clear: to secure your rights to reside in the UK, in whatever relationship the UK has with the EU, apply for UK permanent residency.

But, is it that simple to apply and become a permanent resident in the UK?

Said lawyers advised too you seek the advice of lawyers before applying for permanent residency. Perhaps lawyers might always advise you seek their advice (that is, after all their business model). However, for a status that costs just £65 (far cheaper than the £1,236+ for UK citizenship) this seems to mask a veil of complexity regarding who can apply to be a permanent resident.

The second reason they advise seeking legal advice is that, if your application is refused for permanent residency, the fees (from 10 October 2016) to appeal the decision will increase dramatically:

To apply to be a permanent resident, you have to prove that you have been exercising treaty rights for 5 years (while not residing outside of the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 month period). Exercising treaty rights means fitting within one of these five categories:

  1. Worker
  2. Student
  3. Self-sufficient person
  4. Self-employed person
  5. Job-seeker

First, the job seeker status is not indefinite, and can only be used for up to 3 months. In other words, you can’t apply to be a permanent resident of the UK if you’re an EEA national that has been seeking a job for the past 5 years.

Second, to fall under apply under the categories of student or self-sufficient person you must hold comprehensive, private, medical insurance (under EU law). This is the brutal irony: as a state with free-at-point-of-use healthcare, the NHS does not count as a form of medical insurance, as ruled by the UK Court of Appeal.

I am yet to meet a student from elsewhere in the EU/EEA studying in the UK who has medical insurance. You do not need medical insurance to function in the UK. But, so as to prove you are not a ‘burden’ on ‘us’, EU/EEA students must seek medical insurance to meet the requirements of residency in the UK.

Third, then, the easiest category to apply for permanent residency is as a worker. But do you have payslips and P60s for the last 5 years? Well, the advice was to keep everything. Because, if your employer goes out of business, the onus is on you to prove that you worked there, if you want to apply to be a permanent resident.

Yet, with the casualisation of work, I worry about the ability of many EU migrants to meet these standards. Take higher education, where you can often be employed on 6-9 month contracts and may be spend the summer elsewhere to save money. Universities are disincentivised to provide longer term contracts, to save money, and to prevent you from acquiring the right to a permanent contract. Ultimately, this casualisation is further undermining your rights to gain permanent residency in the UK.

 

Finally, you can no longer apply to be a UK citizen unless you are already a permanent resident. The Home Office used to reimburse your fee (£65) to apply to be a permanent resident, when you applied to be a UK citizen. However, this is no longer the case: instead, your application for citizenship is refused, you lose the £1,236 and, most likely, cannot apply to be a citizen for another 10 years.

So, while we live in the no-mans-land of “Brexit means Brexit”, permanent residency seems to be the answer, so long as you are a worker can prove that to be the case for the last 5 years.