'Think-tank' advises MPs not to amend Article 50 bill
As MPs consider Lords amendments to the Article 50 bill, Migration Watch has warned against a unilateral guarantee to EU citizens currently resident in the UK.
The right-wing lobby group masquerading as a think-tank claims that a unilateral guarantee — as recommended by both Commons and Lords committees — ‘could severely undermine the Prime Minister’s ability to secure the rights of nearly a million UK citizens living in the European Union.’
However, despite its years spent agitating against the rights of migrants in Britain, Migration Watch doesn’t want anyone to be kicked out of Britain. Indeed, today’s ‘briefing paper’ repeatedly invokes the very rights and protections that the group have previously tried to strip away.
Sir Andrew Green, the organisation’s chairperson, commented:
“Those who are playing on the fears of millions of EU nationals who have made Britain their home are being thoroughly irresponsible. They would do better to point out that 85% of those who are here when we leave the EU will have been in the UK for five years and will, therefore be able to apply for permanent residence in the UK, whatever happens in the talks.”
Green should perhaps ask himself why millions of EU nationals are so afraid in the first place. Perhaps his own years of dishonest fear-mongering have something to do with it?
But even if we let that slide, the idea that 85 per cent of EU nationals have nothing to worry about is absurd. While three million of them currently meet the five-year criterion for permanent residency, processing that number of applications will be an unprecedented administrative challenge, for which the government doesn’t seem to have any plan.
At the current processing rate, it would take 150 years for all those applications to clear.
What’s more, of the thousands of EU citizens who have already applied for permanent residency following the referendum, some 28 per cent have had their applications rejected or declared invalid. In one high-profile case, a Dutch woman with a British husband and children, who has lived in the UK for 24 years, had her residency application rejected and was told to ‘make arrangements to leave’ the country.
So whatever placatory sounds Migration Watch makes, EU nationals have plenty of reason to worry that they will face massive practical barriers to gaining residency, an indefinite period in limbo or — and this is not inconceivable — deportation.
The Lords amendment simply requires that the government rapidly commit to finding a solution to these challenges, ensuring that EU nationals can stay and assuaging their concerns about the process. Since Theresa May insists on hard Brexit, this is a burden she has imposed on herself.
Moreover, Migration Watch has played a key role in creating this crisis with its obsessive focus on immigration. It must now recognise what progressives have been saying for years: managing migration is extremely complex and there is no simple way to take back control.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.