“Is he all talk and no trousers?” Jo’s first question to PM Boris

Jo Swinson had her first chance to question Boris Johnson today, as he made his first statement as Prime Minister.

Here’s the full exchange from Hansard:

The 3 million EU citizens are our family, our friends, our neighbours, our carers, yet for three years they have been made to feel unwelcome in our country. They deserve better than warm words and more months of anxiety. They deserve certainty, now. The Prime Minister has made assurances, so will he back the Bill of my Lib Dem colleague Lord Oates, which would guarantee in law the rights of EU citizens? Or is he all talk and no trousers?

The answer pretty much confirmed that that was indeed the case.

The Prime Minister
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her own election and join her in insisting on the vital importance of guaranteeing the rights and protections of the 3.2 million who have lived and worked among us for so long. Of course, we are insisting that their rights are guaranteed in law. I am pleased to say that under our settlement scheme some 1 million have already signed up to enshrine their rights.

Jonny Oates explained earlier this month why his Bill was much better than settled status.

While the scheme does provide a route for EEA nationals to apply for settled status and, if successful, to be granted permanent residence rights, it does not deliver on the promise made to EU citizens by the leave campaign, for a number of reasons. First, the settled status scheme is not the automatic route to indefinite leave to remain that was promised by the leave campaigners. It is an application-based system with a finite cut-off date of 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 in the event of a no-deal Brexit. After midnight on that date, any person who has not applied will be deemed to be unlawfully in the United Kingdom whether or not they would otherwise have been eligible for permanent residence under the scheme.

I do not think that anyone seriously believes that the Home Office will be able to reach, and grant settled status to, all the 3 million EEA nationals estimated to be resident in the UK in just two years. Based on evidence from studies of other application-based government schemes, it is possible that between 5% and 10% of those eligible will not have been reached by the cut-off date. That means that tens or even hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible people may find themselves undocumented and criminalised in as little as 17 months’ time. Inevitably, those most at risk will be vulnerable: young people in care, the elderly and the marginalised. I hope that no future British Government would even contemplate attempting to detain and deport such people; but, at the very least, that so many may become criminalised by the state will create a Kafkaesque nightmare which will then have to be painstakingly unravelled. In the process, many thousands of people will be subjected to misery and disruption.

The Government’s argument for a cut-off date seems to be that it will help avoid a repeat of the injustice inflicted on people by the Home Office in the Windrush scandal, but it will do nothing of the sort. The cut-off date will simply empower the Home Office lawfully to inflict such injustice. Under the settled status scheme, ​there will be no hope of redress for EU citizens as there was for at least some of the Windrush victims because, after June 2021, they will have automatically lost their lawful immigration status by virtue of having failed to meet the cut-off date, regardless of being otherwise fully eligible for permanent residence under the scheme.

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One Comment

  • Followed by a night of triumph in Gloucester, not sure any of us really saw Podsmead going the way it did. Fingers crossed for next week at Brecon.

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