We now finally have the details of the EU withdrawal deal. I do not feel I can accept it because of continued uncertainty on customs. I have long advocated membership of a customs union with the EU, including when I served on the Customs Bill Committee, and believed it was thoroughly wrong for the government to rule this out. It is essential that firms like BMW are able to maintain their complex supply chains with a minimum of bureaucracy and delay – this is essential for jobs in our area.
But the people who will be most affected by this withdrawal deal are our EU citizens, and there are many of them in Oxford.
Here’s what the problem is. The statement of intent from the EU settlement scheme states that those applying would not be required to show that they meet all the requirements of current free movement rules. However, this has been contradicted by the latest set of immigration regulations, which states that an applicant is subject to a removal decision on the grounds of their non-exercise or misuse of EEA treaty rights. I am concerned about this because, in the past, ‘treaty rights’ provisions have been used to target vulnerable groups whom the powers that be have expected might find it difficult to prove that they were exercising a treaty right (because they might not have been working, studying or self-sufficient). There is currently no guarantee that this approach will not be applied to EU residents seeking settled status, especially to those who might be especially vulnerable (for example, with health problems, having escaped domestic violence, people experiencing homelessness, etc). The withdrawal agreement is ambiguous on that point.
I put this question directly to Theresa May in the House of Commons on 15 November, and was initially relieved by the letter I received from the Prime Minister a week later, which indicated that EU citizens would not have to prove anything beyond residency (and passing a criminality test). However, I was astonished to see on Friday morning that the Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes MP, had responded to a parliamentary question on this matter by reinserting the additional requirements for EU residents.
The Government’s position is chaotic, on this as well as on many other aspects of the withdrawal agreement. I will keep fighting on this.
Today I asked the PM Theresa May for a specific answer on whether her agreement protects the rights of the3million EU nationals after Brexit. I look forward to her written response because I feel that the draft deal leaves huge uncertainty for many of my Oxford constituents.
Posted by Anneliese Dodds on Thursday, November 15, 2018