September 25, 2017
Campaigners are sceptical of Home Office reassurance that comes weeks after leaked document suggested new rules would apply.
The Home Office has sought to reassure EU citizens that they will not be fingerprinted or need ID cards after Brexit just weeks after a leaked immigration document suggested new registration rules would apply.
Senior officials also told activists who head the3million campaign group that EU citizens already in the UK will not have to meet a minimum income threshold or have private health insurance to stay in the country after Brexit.
The summary of the main points of the meeting was agreed via email with the Home Office and was due to be released publicly on Monday as part of the3million’s efforts to keep up the pressure on the government as it enters the fourth round of Brexit talks in Brussels this week.
It read: “The Home Office has confirmed ... its position that EU citizens will not have to have comprehensive sickness insurance [private health insurance], will not have to meet an income threshold, will not have to submit fingerprints; will not be issued with an ID card.”
They were told this was the Home Office position on EU citizens already in the UK and not post-Brexit migrants.
However, the3million, which has previously written to the European commission to say it does not trust the Home Office with EU citizens’ futures, remains sceptical.
While they see it as a “great news” for people like students and stay-at-home parents who previously required CSI [comprehensive sickness insurance], they say they are “reserving judgment” on any future system.
The Home Office has indicated to the3million that the new registration system would result in a “digital” document and not a card to be carried around.
It has also pointed to agreement with the EU Brexit negotiators in the August round of talks that fingerprints would not be used for ID.
“The fact is that they will probably need de facto ID cards to prove that they were existing residents rather than new entrants, because it looks like new entrants will have to register,” said immigration barrister Colin Yeo.
Nicolas Hatton, the chairman of the3million said it found it difficult to believe government promises given the “confusion at the top” over post-Brexit rights.
“On Friday we had Theresa May saying we would have the same rights as before, and on Sunday we have David Davis saying we won’t have reunification and we won’t have registration,” said Nicolas Hatton, co-founder of the3million.
He was referring to the Brexit secretary’s interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr in which he said that in future EU citizens would not be allowed to have a spouse or other relative from a non-EU country join them in the UK, as is currently permitted under EU freedom of movement rules.
“In the long run that won’t happen and we have to get to a situation where British – British citizens and the 3 million or so Europeans who are here – are on a level standing,” Davis said. He told Marr this was currently one of the areas on which British and EU negotiators had clashed.
Two days earlier May painted a different picture, reassuring EU citizens that every right they had now would be preserved.
“It has been, and it remains, one of my first goals in this negotiation is to ensure that you can carry on living your lives as before,” May said.
Davis’s view appears to chime with the leaked immigration paper, which proposes a crackdown on the rights of EU citizens to bring in family members, even those of EU nationalities.
The reassurances the3million received on 15 September also strike a radically different tone to the clampdown on immigration proposed in the leaked immigration document, which was written on 7 August, and leaked to the Guardian.
The document said that during the Brexit transition phase people who wanted to reside in the UK for an extended period would have to provide proof of citizenship either with a passport “or a Home Office biometric immigration document”, which critics say amounts to an ID card system.
On fingerprinting, the document stated that “in order to protect against identity fraud, we may also wish to take the fingerprints of those new arrivals who are registering”.
Hatton says the continuing disparities between May and Davis does not augur well for Brexit talks this week.
“I think they will struggle to persuade the EU, if they do not have a clear idea of what their aim for negotiations are,” said Hatton.
The right of EU citizens to bring in third-country spouses is already testing the Home Office, with officials threatening wives and husbands with deportation.
Last week the Guardian reported on the case of a Japanese woman who had been told to leave the country, had her child benefit stopped and her driving licence cancelled even though she was legally in the country as the spouse of an EU national for more than a decade.
“The lack of the grasp of the detail in politicians’ minds on this issue is telling,” Hatton added.
“The statement issued by the3million group today reiterates our public position on these issues,” said a spokesman for the Home Office.
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