The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has written to the Prime Minister calling on him to safeguard the rights of the 41,000 non-UK EU citizens’ who live in Tower Hamlets. The letter criticises the government for using the rights of EU citizens’ as ‘bargaining chips’ and calls on these rights to be taken ‘off the table’.
During the 2016 EU referendum campaign, Boris Johnson signed a statement promising that “there will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.”
However there has been widespread criticism that the government’s ‘settled status’ scheme – whereby EU citizens’ can apply to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021 – falls short of this pledge as citizens won’t get “automatic” leave to remain: they are required to make an application and many argue that any citizens who don’t apply will be treated less favourably in future.
The letter calls for citizens’ rights to be enshrined in legislation, including the right to vote.
Earlier this year, Tower Hamlets Council’s Brexit Commission published a report into the potential impact of Brexit on Tower Hamlets, raising significant concerns around the impact on the local economy, public services and civil society, including the rights of EU citizens’.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “The 41,000 EU citizens who live in Tower Hamlets contribute a great deal to our borough and to our country and they deserve certainty about their future. It is grotesquely unfair for their rights to be used as bargaining chips in the government’s Brexit negotiations.
“The settled status scheme is not good enough. We need the rights of non-UK EU citizens to be enshrined in UK law as a matter of urgency. This will be an important safeguard, particularly in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”
Councillor Sabina Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Brexit, said: “Many promises were made during the 2016 referendum campaign, including the pledge that EU citizens would be able to continue living in the UK as before. Sadly throughout the last three years it’s become clear that the rights of EU citizens are ‘on the table’ for the government. Putting these rights formally into law is the only way to provide some sense of security and stability for the 3 million non-UK EU citizens living in our country.”