Don’t forget Brexit

JUST AS we will - it is to be hoped - start to emerge from one catastrophe, another disaster looms: a likely no-deal Brexit as the post-Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. Her Majesty's Government seems determined to deliver another economic shock, with no trade deal with the EU likely to be in place.

A clairvoyant placard from a 2019 EU rally: 'happy stockpiling everyone!'; Photo: Matt Salusbury

A prescient banner from a pro-EU march in London in Autumn 2019.

Home Secretary Priti Patel recently ruled out any covid-19 related extension to the deadline for EU nationals living in the UK to register for the EU Settlement Scheme. These people - including many NUJ members - will have until 30 June 2021 to register if there is a deal, or until 31 December 2020 if there isn't. Those not registered by then face the threat of deportation.

This is despite processing of EU Settled Status applications being disrupted by covid-19. The Home Office Settled Status helpline has only recently re-opened.

Meanwhile, charities and NGOs offering support to vulnerable EU nationals needing help with Settled Status applications have had to divert their efforts and resources during the covid-19 emergency.

With millions suddenly having to apply for Universal Credit (UC), it has also been reported that many EU nationals with the less secure Pre-Settled Status are being denied UC on "residency" grounds. Pre-Settled Status is for those who've not yet been in the UK for five years, and covers an estimated 1 million of the at least 3.3 million EU nationals in the UK.

This rejection of UC applications contravenes the Withdrawal Agreement clauses on citizens' rights during the transition period. If you are an EU national with Pre-Settled Status who finds yourself denied UC on residency grounds, contact the Freelance Office to be referred to legal advice.

As far as we are aware, most EU nationals had already obtained Settled Status before the covid-19 pandemic hit the UK - the Mayor of London's office in March estimated that only 15 per cent of EU nationals resident in the city had yet to apply at that time. Watch the online Freelance for updates on how Brexit will affect us - our many EU national members in particular.