Latest government figures show that 20,280 EU citizens living in Brighton & Hove have now applied to stay in the UK after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December this year.
As a consequence of the 2016 referendum, when 52% of the British population voted to leave the EU, all EU citizens as well as those from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, need to apply to the EU settlement scheme (EUSS) if they want to protect their right to continue living, working and accessing healthcare in the UK from next year.
Brighton & Hove’s diverse population includes people from over 150 different countries including all EU nations.
Leaders from the three main political parties in Brighton & Hove have made clear their desire to work together to prepare for the impacts of Brexit and secure the best possible outcome for the city.
Their united front is evident in the open letter they collectively signed at the beginning of 2020 where they outlined their key priorities to support EU residents to remain in the city and safeguard Brighton & Hove’s reputation as an open and welcoming place.
Before Covid-19, Brexit was the single most pressing issue facing the UK and its estimated 3.4million+ EU citizens who live and work here.
Lives lost and a global lockdown have seen Brexit news swept from the front pages but the timetable for securing trade deals and agreeing a future relationship with our European neighbours is set, and time is running out.
If Covid has shown us anything, it’s the positive and crucial contribution EU citizens make to our city and its essential services, including the NHS.
From 1 January 2021, new immigration rules will apply and although the EU Settlement Scheme is open until 30 June 2021, it will only be available to EU citizens already resident in the country before 1 January.
There has been some confusion around the number of EU citizens living in the UK and this makes it very difficult to accurately assess how many people need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Still work to be done
It is encouraging to see a high number of applicants in Brighton & Hove in this latest round of figures but there is still work to be done to ensure that no-one who is eligible and wants to remain in the UK is left behind.
With no clarity on numbers, there is a real risk that people with a rightful claim to British residence could lose their legal status overnight leaving them vulnerable to wrongful deportation when the deadline passes next year.
A particular focus for us over coming months is to ensure we reach vulnerable groups and those who may not even know they need to apply to the scheme.
For example, children who have been born in the UK and have lived their entire lives here could, under new immigration rules, be considered ineligible to live and work in the UK if their parents are EU citizens and have not applied to the settlement scheme.
This is a ticking time bomb of unfairness and inequality that we simply must not let happen.
Similarly, the prospect of many eligible EU workers falling through the cracks and losing their rights is deeply concerning.
We want our EU residents to stay
I urge business owners to use the government’s employer toolkit to ensure they and their EU staff members have access to the right information and materials needed to prevent both parties from losing their livelihoods.
EU citizens are valued members of our communities and contribute to the city’s vibrant make-up, workforce and diversity.
In Brighton & Hove our message is clear, we want our EU residents to stay and we will support them in continuing to make the city their home.
If you know of someone who is eligible to apply to the EUSS who hasn’t yet applied, please encourage them to do so.
The application process is free and there is support available for anyone who needs it.
As a German born citizen, I have been through the application process myself recently and found it quick and straightforward. Within just two weeks of my application, I was granted settled status to stay securely in the place I love and have chosen to call home.
Marianna Ebel, Chair of BHCC’s Brexit Working Group
More information about Brexit in Brighton & Hove