“Roy Moore’s stunning defeat reveals red line for Trump-style politics.” This headline and others like it in today’s papers show that thankfully common decency often prevails over hate. What a contrast to 2016 when Brexit and Donald Trump rode to power on the back of xenophobia.
This year, we have seen far-right politicians soundly defeated in France and the Netherlands; however, their gains in the German and Austrian elections show that the world is not out of the woods yet when it comes to far-right populism gaining ground politically.
Dramatic events last week
Anyone examining UK politics last week, including immigration lawyers in London, would have happily placed large bets on Prime Minister, Theresa May, handing in her resignation. On Monday, the embattled PM’s political weakness was brutally exposed, when Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dramatically torpedoed an agreement between the UK and the EU by refusing to support the government’s proposal to keep Northern Ireland aligned with EU laws. This was a humiliating moment for the Prime Minister, who was forced to pause discussions with the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, to take a phone call from the leader of a minor party, who most people had never heard of until Mrs May was required to rely on them to support her government after her disastrous election results in June.
According to The Guardian, “Diplomats were waiting for two hours in a negotiating room at the Council of Minister's headquarters, for a meeting that had been planned to follow the Juncker-May lunch. When it became clear the two sides could not get an agreement, the officials were sent home.”
However, in the early hours of Friday morning, a miracle occurred. The British government and the EU finally agreed to a deal which allowed talks, which had been in deadlock for weeks, to progress.
EU citizen’s rights under the new agreement
There were two main points set out in the final agreement:
- EU citizens currently living in the UK and UK citizens currently residing in the EU can stay after Brexit. In addition, the rights of their children and those of partners in existing “durable relationships” are also guaranteed.
- The UK courts will be responsible for overseeing the rights of EU nationals but can refer unclear cases and will follow judgments from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for eight years after Britain leaves the bloc.
David Davis makes a blunder
Before going on to discuss the effect of the agreement on EU nationals residing in the UK, we have to mention the blunder by the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Davis. On Sunday, to appease the virulent Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party, Mr Davis announced the joint agreement struck with the European Commission on the Irish border, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement was “more a statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing.”
Although technically, Mr Davis was rights, after all, the “gentleman’s’ agreement” was made on a handshake last Friday, a furious Michael Barnier, the chief EU negotiator, told journalists: “We will have a final agreement only if the final commitments taken by Theresa May and the British government on Friday are respected. And we will be vigilant; we will not accept any backtracking from the UK.”
Mr Davis’s gaffe illustrates the extreme tightness of the rope he and the Prime Minister are walking between trying to keep staunch back-bench Eurosceptics, who want nothing more than for the UK to crash out of the EU, and the more moderate party members from all sides of the House of Commons floor.
Many EU citizens may not get the right to stay in the UK according to experts
Migration experts, including some of London’s best immigration solicitors, have told The Guardian this morning that hundreds of thousands of EU nationals could struggle to secure Settled Status following Brexit.
The Oxford University-based Migration Observatory told Home Affairs editor, Allen Travis:
“Most EU citizens should have little trouble getting their status resolved if the simplified system the government has proposed goes ahead. But there are still big questions about what will happen to the minority who don’t have official evidence that they have been living in the UK.
“It’s impossible to estimate exactly how many this will be. But even if it is only a few percent of the total, the numbers of applicants affected would run into the tens or even the hundreds of thousands.
“Depending on what documentation is required, some people may not be able to meet the burden of proof. For example, people working in the cash economy and not declaring their earnings could struggle to show that they were working in the UK for five years.”
Elderly people and those with learning disabilities and mental health problems may also struggle to acquire Settled Status. If they fail to meet the two-year deadline, they may become unlawful, despite having lived in Britain for decades.
The rosy picture painted on Friday regarding Brexit negotiations is already beginning to show cracks. The complications of legalising the residency status of three million EU nationals who never expected, and therefore, never planned for, an event such as Brexit to happen, often seem insurmountable. Therefore, it is imperative for EU nationals concerned about their rights to remain in Britain following Brexit to speak to our team who can outline the best options available to them.
By making an appointment with one of our immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0207 936 9960.