Problems with the EU Settlement Scheme and a lack of certainty over the future rights of EU citizens in the UK sees the government risking a repeat of the Windrush Scandal.
The Home Affairs Committee has given the warning, saying it has serious concerns that the current design of the scheme means that EU citizens could be left in an uncertain situation regarding their rights and eligibility to remain in the UK.
No deal Brexit
It goes on to say many EU citizens are at risk of being left out altogether, and makes the point – which has already been raised by the RLA – that it is unclear how landlords and employers are to differentiate between different groups of EU citizens in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
The committee believes it will be impossible for landlords, employers and others to tell the difference between long-term residents who are yet to apply to the Settlement Scheme and recent arrivals in the UK who have not registered with the government.
The RLA wrote to former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab on the issue last August, and in October the association joined forces with the campaign group ‘the3million’ to send a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, calling for EU citizens to be provided with hard copy documents, proving their status in the UK, post Brexit.
The prospect of EU citizens being discriminated against in areas such as housing given the penalties landlords face for renting to those who do not have a right to rent in the UK, was also raised by the Home Office committee.
The RLA has also warned of this for some time, and earlier this year, in a case brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and supported by the RLA, the High Court ruled the right to rent scheme breaches human rights law.
The association has since asked for firm guidance on what will happen as regards the right to rent scheme post-Brexit, with the government releasing some guidance earlier this month.
The Home Office Committee has now called on the government to go further and enshrine in law the rights of EU citizens in the UK and operate the EU Settlement Scheme only as a means for individuals to obtain proof of their status, rather than giving them a time-limited opportunity to guarantee their rights.
This would ensure they are protected post-Brexit from the legal uncertainty faced by the Windrush generation.
The Committee recommends that:
- EU citizens legally resident in the UK before Brexit should have their rights protected and entitlement to remain enshrined in law.
- The Settlement Scheme should operate as a means for EU citizens to obtain formal, physical confirmation of their status, not just as a digital system.
- The granting of legal rights and the Settlement Scheme should operate in the same way if the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal.
- Improvements must be made to the application process which has been blighted by technical issues.
- The Scheme must identify ways of supporting children and vulnerable individuals to apply.
- The Government must clarify its intentions towards those who fail to apply.
John Stewart, policy manager for the RLA said: “We are pleased to see the Home Office committee reflecting our own beliefs, that the current system does not go far enough to protect those EU citizens with a valid right to rent here. With a no-deal Brexit looming in October we hope its recommendations are taken on board.”
To read the full report click here.