Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael MP, has spoken out on the deadline date of the EU Settlement Scheme, voicing concern about the rights of EU citizens in the UK still awaiting confirmation of their status. EU citizens are required to apply for settled status before midnight tonight in order to secure their rights to live and work in the UK, with some raising concerns about a potential “Windrush-style” scandal in the future. Mr Carmichael wrote to all known EU citizens in the Northern Isles constituency in May to offer support with applications.
Speaking in the House Mr Carmichael said:
“Some weeks ago, I wrote out to all of the EU nationals I could identify in my constituency, we publicised this looming deadline in the press, and it did turn up a disturbing number of glitches in the system, not least one involving the inadequacy of certain mobile phones for uploading documents. I would have hoped that by this stage in things these sort of bugs would have been ironed out of the system, but my experience is that they have not been.
“There remains something in the region of 400,000 unprocessed applications. Making allowance for the fact that there is bound to be a late surge, we might expect that there will be something touching half a million by the time it comes to the close of the deadline. It is only once an application has been granted that the applicant is entitled to the right to healthcare, to work, and also to rent. They could be liable for charges within the NHS. So, can the minister tell the House what he intends to do for these half a million people, possibly, while we are waiting for their applications to be processed?”
Responding for the Government, Kevin Foster MP said:
“The Right Honourable Gentleman is not correct […] a person who applies by the 30 June 2021 deadline will have their existing rights protected pending the outcome of their application including any appeal. That includes the right to work and the right to access healthcare, and this is achieved by the Citizens’ Rights Application Deadline and Temporary Protection EU Exit Regulations 2020, a piece of law passed last year. So that is the firm message I would give, is that people should get their applications in by the deadline but if they’ve got an application in time, their rights are protected.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“The minister set his claims out in black and white – it will be up to us all to judge the truth of them in the coming weeks after the deadline passes tonight. Those of us who have seen first-hand the attitudes and the actions of the Home Office in past scandals have some reason to remain concerned.
“All of this could have been avoided if the government had listened to advice and abandoned its arbitrary deadlines. With just hours to go until the deadline my office remains available to help anyone needing to make a last-minute application.”