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Brexit: Settled Status deadline looms

IT KEEPS getting worse. EU nationals living in the UK who have not yet applied for EU Settled Status now have until the end of June to do so.

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We understand that the vast majority of EU nationals in the UK - including many of our LFB colleagues - have already applied. If you are in this demographic and have yet to apply for Settled Status, please do so immediately. The Mayor of London's EU Londoners' Hub is a good place to start for advice, as is the website of your embassy in London. The Freelance Office may be able to signpost NUJ members towards further advice on Settled Status.

The UK Government has yet to clarify what will happen to EU nationals who have not completed their Settled Status application after the 30 June deadline. Nor have they issued any clear statement or guidance to their own Home Office and Border Force people on the fate of EU nationals who by then have started but not completes their Settled Status formalities.

Reasons for not completing formalities could include being stuck abroad and unable to return to the UK due to covid-19, not having access to the right kind of phone to make the application, there being a huge backlog of Settled Status applications, and so on.

Those EU nationals who miss the 30 June deadline face immediately being charged for NHS treatment.

The only action from government on this has been an instruction for Border Force officials to grant immigration bail to EU nationals awaiting a decision on whether they can stay, "where appropriate."

As of mid-May, Euronews reports that "dozens" of EU nationals arriving in the UK have been deported, some after briefly being held in airport immigration centres with bars on the windows and allowed only one phone call. They were told their supporting documentation giving the reasons for their stay was insufficient. Some were arriving to take up summer employment, others were visiting family in the UK.

We have heard anecdotal reports of apparently "well-heeled" businesspeople, especially from France, being turned back on arrival in the UK for a business meeting, even though visits for business meetings are clearly visa-free as part of the Withdrawal Agreement and also allowed under UK covid-19 regulations. (Visa requirements post-Brexit are here.)

The Guardian reported that an Italian-Brazilian dual national and her Brazilian husband were handcuffed and kept overnight in an Immigration Enforcement van - and then in a removal centre - for seven days and denied access to their phones, medicines or baggage, before being deported to Italy. An Estonian national who said she was coming to stay with family and help with childcare was one of several EU nationals reportedly sent back on suspicion of coming to work as an au pair in the UK without a visa.

In mid-May, just six weeks from the Settled Status deadline, it emerged that some five million EU nationals have applied for Settled Status so far, of which 4.9 million have been granted Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status. The figure of five million was much higher that the 3.1 million EU nationals believed to be in the UK by the Office for National Statistics at the time of the Brexit referendum in 2016. So it's likely there are many more EU nationals in the UK who are likely to fall through the gaps in the system.

There's an outline letter to your MP on Settled Status and the right of EU nationals to stay in the UK at righttostay.org.uk. The Withdrawal Agreement and earlier commitments by the UK Government promised "a right to stay" for our EU national colleagues. The Settled Status scheme does not attain this standard.

  • Please also encourage your MP to sign up to Early Day Motion 1404 calling for a travel deal for media and creative workers: details here. Find your MP's email here.

Meanwhile, NUJ members who are UK nationals living and freelancing in an EU Member State and whose status post-Brexit is affecting your ability to carry out and find work are asked to contact the NUJ's Continental European Council, care of the Freelance via brexit@londonfreelance.org, as the Council is compiling evidence with a view to Euro-lobbying.

  • London Freelance Branch is launching an initiative aimed at linking up its many members who share a language other than English (whatever their nationality) and who may find themselves challenged by the need to master English well enough to write and broadcast in it, as well navigating the peculiar institutions of the UK. It's provisionally titled The Many Voices of the NUJ. Stand by for an announcement, likely in the Branch meeting on 12 July.