It is well known that five years ago the residents of Merton and Wandsworth voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. We knew that there would be no tangible benefits to the UK ‘going it alone’.
Five years on, with Brexit a reality, we have been proved right. We have lost access to a huge trading bloc on our doorstep, our freedom to travel, work and live in 27 other countries has been removed, and from hospitals to hospitality, we are short of talented EU nationals to work here in Britain.
But perhaps the most egregious fact is the fate that now awaits thousands of EU nationals who have not yet been granted ‘Settled Status’, or the right to remain in the UK and enjoy the same rights and benefits they had when we were part of the EU.
These people do not beg or scrounge. They work and pay taxes like anyone else. Yes, there are a few who don’t play by the rules, but the vast majority do.
June 30th is the deadline for EU nationals to apply for Settled Status. If they are aged 1 or 91 everyone must register, even if they have lived here for 40 years or more. That was the deal, and we have to live with it. But there are numerous cases of applications being refused for apparently no reason, or lost, or simply stuck somewhere in the ether of the ‘application process’, with the hapless applicant unable to find out whether they will hear by the end of this month that their future is secured.
I am not being melodramatic; if a EU national does not have Settled Status on July 1st, they are no longer eligible for NHS care, they cannot work or claim any benefits and could be deported. Such is the nature of the ‘hostile environment they face.
We know the case of a lawyer specialising in immigration who informed us that it took him about 30 calls, 2 hours of holding, 3 Home Office phone surveys and 6 Home Office disconnections to be able to speak to a real person from the Settled Scheme Resolution Centre. What chance does our typical applicant have?
There have been numerous requests to the Government to extend the June 30th deadline. They have fallen on deaf ears. Consider the cost of enforcing the new restrictions and ask: ‘Was it worth it?’
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