Brexit: discrimination already

THE FREELANCE has already encountered one example of an EU national within the Branch who applied for a staff job with a media organisation and who was asked for evidence of their Permanent Residence (PR) status in the UK.

Applications for that status are still a work in progress as EU nationals had no idea they'd ever need to apply until last summer's EU referendum result. Nor do they yet need any evidence of their immigration status - beyond showing an EU passport.

Until the UK formally leaves the EU, its citizens have the same rights to work in the UK as UK citizens: anyone who tries to tell them otherwise is in breach of the (still valid) Treaty of Amsterdam and other EU treaties and Directives.

It isn't even clear yet what sort of status EU nationals will need to apply for in order to stay in the UK after Brexit. So asking EU citizens about their residence status is - on the face of it - currently unlawful.

UK Minister for Equalities Nick Gibb, responding to a recent Parliamentary Question, has said he will "review" a couple of dozen advertisements that have come to his attention and specify that only UK passport holders can apply for the job - in some cases a job needing a foreign language or travel to the EU. Other ads offer different terms to EU nationals.

Gibb said the Government Equalities Office was "looking into" these cases and that it sponsors the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which enforces anti-discrimination legislation. The Freelance is making enquiries and hopes to have advice soon for EU nationals on how to respond to discrimination on the basis of their nationality and who to contact. Watch this space.

A recently-leaked Home Office document marked "Draft- official sensitive" proposes that, following Brexit, there will be a two-year "implementation period" - after which freedom of movement "in its current form" will end. In its place it proposes compulsory registration and biometric ID cards for EU nationals resident in the UK, with restrictions on bringing in their spouses. "Non-skilled" EU nationals will become temporary workers on a two-year work permit.

It's not clear whether journalistic professions will count as "highly skilled" workers who can stay on permits of five years or more. EU national freelances will be asked for "proof of self-employment" with a "minimum earnings threshold".

The Guardian reports that there have already been ministerial rows within the UK government over the draft document. It should be stressed that this draft document is marked "subject to negotiation" with the EU, which has already taken a dim view of initial UK "offers" on the status of EU nationals. The European Parliament in particular is preparing to use its power to veto a final EU-UK deal over the issue of citizens' rights.