Hope for EU expats as UK government warned over deportation

Published:  21 Dec at 6 PM
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The UK parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has warned the government of the impracticability of attempting to deport 2.9 million EU expats from the UK.

Published last Monday, the committee’s strongly-worded report tells it like it is as regards mass deportations, and also notes that expats living and working in the UK should not be used as ‘bargaining chips’. The report in full highlighted the predicament of both UK citizens living in Europe and EU citizens in the UK, and states unequivocally their joint human rights must not be used as bargaining in Brexit negotiations.

JCHR’s strong stance on the issue involves Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which gives a guarantee of privacy, home and family life and which will still be in force after Brexit is finalised. As signatories to the convention, the British government would be at risk of multiple expensive and long-lasting lawsuits should it attempt mass deportations. At the least, such cases would clog and possible overwhelm British courts.

The human rights committee, comprising MPs and peers of the realm, is especially concerned by Secretary of State Liam Fox’s comments referring to EU nationals in the UK as ‘one of the main cards’ of any Brexit negotiations. Unfortunately, Theresa May’s attempts at the recent EU summit meeting as regards assurances for those affected fell on deaf EU leaders’ ears, thus negating justice minister Oliver Heald’s assurance to the committee that she was ‘seeking an early agreement’ on the issue.

JCHR’s report also recommends the setting up of safeguards for UK nationals in Europe in the form of a separate, preliminary agreement immediately after Article 50 is triggered. It points out that those forced into repatriation to the UK may have problems with getting benefits such as pensions, universal credit and job-seekers’ allowances as they would not pass the habitual residence test.

Given that EU nationals who’ve been living in the UK for more than five years are entitled to apply for permanent residence, many may not be able to qualify as they have not been formally employed. In this case, the residential rights of children and family connections are expected to be relevant, but each case would need to be separately assessed. The resulting backlog would cause chaos, but would prevent the government from simply deporting all EU nationals.
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