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

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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.

Michael Gove is arguing the UK should be like states that want to join the EU

Michael Gove’s recent speech—the facts of life say leave: why Britain and Europe will be better off after we vote leave—was a call to arms for the Leave campaign to inject the campaign with optimism. Gove wanted to oppose Project Fear and the idea that leaving the EU would make Britain more uncertain and unstable than status quo. However, Gove’s logic is circular, claims Eleanor Knott. Essentially, he is arguing that the UK should try to be like the very states that are seeking to join the EU.

For example, Gove argued that should the UK leave the EU, the UK would undoubtedly have access to the EU’s free trade zone which goes “from Iceland to Turkey”. He claimed that EU would be unlikely to turn away the UK given that “Bosnia, Serbia, Albania and the Ukraine” are members of the free trade area.

However states with EU free trade agreements, overwhelmingly, see these agreements as a stepping stone to EU membership. Albania and Serbia have been candidate countries to join the EU since 2014 and 2012, respectively. Bosnia has been promised the prospect of joining the EU when it is ready and, in February 2016, submitted its application to be an EU candidate country. Even Turkey has been an EU candidate country since 1999.

The exception of those named by Gove is Ukraine (not the Ukraine, as Gove quoted) which is not yet an EU candidate country. The EU does not yet consider Ukraine as ready to begin negotiations to join the EU. Ukrainian public opinion, however, is growing in support for EU membership. Between 47% and 59%, depending on the poll, support joining the EU in Ukraine. An absolute majority may not, always, support joining the EU, but it is the largest camp in contrast to alternatives, such as status quo or joining the Eurasian Customs Union.

The key difference between states that are signed up to EU agreements, “Bosnia, Serbia, Albania and the Ukraine” and those that do not, like Belarus, is the political willingness and public endorsement of relations with the EU and a desire to join the EU as soon as possible. The stop gap to membership is that the EU wants more reform within candidate countries, in terms of accountability, transparency and corruption, before membership.

First, then, EU free trade agreements are a stepping stone to membership for many signatories. Second, these free trade agreements, such as the Deep and Comprehensive agreement (DCFTA) signed by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova in 2014, require “legislative approximation”. In other words, to make a free trade agreement with the EU, states have to be willing to adopt EU acquis. In the case of DCFTA states, they adopted approximately 80-90% of EU acquis before signing.

Adopting acquis is an asymmetrical process. The EU determines its own common body of legislation and determines which of these should be adopted by those within the free trade zone. States within the free trade zone, therefore, are encumbered to adopt the acquis without the ability to influence what they are.

The case for leaving the EU is based on a misunderstanding of the relations between the EU and its non-EU neighbours. Free trade agreements offer their signatories, comparatively-speaking, worse deal than they offer EU member-states. The reason so many states have been willing to sign up to agreements and to adopt EU legislation in which they have no say is because of the value of access to a single market. This access is worth the costs of “regulation without representation” and, for many, conceived as a necessary step towards the eventual goal of EU membership, which would require adopting EU acquis anyhow.

Gove’s argument, then, is circular: the UK should leave the EU and aspire to join a free trade area which is comprised by many states that want to join the EU. Why can’t the UK just remain in the EU and influence what EU legislation looks like?

This post was originally posted on LSE's Brexit Vote Blog.