Brexit leaves EU nationals facing repeat of Windrush scandal, Tower Hamlets warns minister

Tower Hamlets Brexit Commission's chair Cllr Amina Ali... launching roadshow reassuring 41,000 EU ci

Tower Hamlets Brexit Commission's chair Cllr Amina Ali... launching roadshow reassuring 41,000 EU citizens living in the East End about their future. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

EU nationals face a repeat of the Windrush scandal if post-Brexit employment rules are not clarified, the chair of Tower Hamlets Brexit Commission has said.

In a letter, Cllr Amina Ali urged immigration minister Caroline Nokes MP to explain, urgently, how the government’s settled status scheme would be implemented.

Thursday’s letter came two days after the minister appeared in parliament before the Home Affairs Select Committee to answer questions on her department’s preparations for Brexit.

During the hearing, her responses regarding the scheme appeared to conflict with published Home Office guidance used by the council and others to keep EU nationals informed.

Cllr Ali asked Ms Nokes to clarify the position EU nationals and employers will find themselves in four months’ time when the UK leaves the bloc.

“The government’s advice to EU nationals already in the UK is still that they don’t have to take any action until June 2021,” she wrote.

“But now it would seem those who cannot prove settled status from as early as March next year could face additional barriers to employment. These include a need to provide documentary evidence of their home in the UK that nobody has warned them they will need.

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“We have seen what happens with the implementation of immigration rules is poorly handled with the Windrush generation. Nobody wants that to happen for the 41,000 EU nationals in Tower Hamlets or the millions around the rest of the country.

“It is vital that the government now acts quickly to provide clarity about how the settled status scheme will actually work.”

In her responses to the select committee, the minister suggested that from as early as March, EU nationals applying for a job in the UK would have to show evidence of settled status.

But the scheme doesn’t fully open for applications until then. The Home Office’s own guidance, by contrast, tells EU nationals they have until June 2021 to apply.

When challenged on the inconsistency, the minister said it would be for employers to do additional checks to iron out confusion caused by the government’s scheme. No such instruction has been issued to businesses.