ACT NOW: Rights of self-employed EU, Swiss, and Turkish citizens under threat

UPDATE: The Third Delegated Legislation Committee met on Monday 21 October 2019 upstairs in the House of Commons to discuss the issue. Labour and SNP MPs raised the concerns of their constituents, the3million and The Public Law Project.

Discussed in committee as secondary legislation, this is a preliminary step to approval before what would usually be a simple process of nodding it through in the chamber. The Regulations are listed for approval by the full House today, but there are other things going on, and if there is any opposition, the debate will be postponed.

As to the debate in the Committee itself, you can examine the minutes here.

You’ll be relieved to hear that Labour and SNP MPs worked together to raise some very important objections. One of the key objections is that they were avoiding discussion in the chamber, with the cover that impact will be “minimal”, making that and any impact assessment unnecessary.

The Conservative Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi) made repeated assurances that those already resident in the UK would not be affected by this legislation. He stated his reasons for enacting the legislation, almost as if it was so meaningless that it didn’t need to be passed – in which case, why propose it? Frankly, I don’t have the expertise to comment on that and would welcome readers’ thoughts, which I can use to update this post or simply publish below.

My key concern is that retaining existing rights appears to hinge upon the very much flawed Settlement Scheme: we’ve all heard the stories about people failing to be awarded Settled Status, and being given Pre-Settled Status by default when actually eligible for full Settled Status. Self-employment, as we all know, can be particularly complicated in a range of areas – residency is sure to be one of them.

The SNP and Labour delegates were accused of scaremongering, expected to trust these vague assurances without clear explanations of why something that so drastically affects many people is being proposed at all, and via this route, rather than debated as part of what is in effect a change to the Immigration Act of 2016.

This proposal was passed by the Committee, mostly by silent Conservative members who contributed little or nothing to the debate.

The situation is still very unclear and needs to be monitored closely. Therefore, I continue to request colleagues take the suggested actions below to lobby their MPs.

Some MPs at the Committee said they were only made aware of this by their constituents and raised constituents’ specific concerns at the meeting. Right now, lobbying and writing to MPs really is making a difference.

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Are you based in the UK? Are you a UK citizen? If so, I’m writing this quick blog post today to ask you to take action to protect your rights and/or the rights of your colleagues.

Researched by charitable foundation The Public Law Project and shared by The 3 Million, it emerged late last week – when many of us were preparing to march in London on Saturday or generally distracted by the chaos that is UK politics right now – that the UK government has proposed legislation to strip EU, Turkish, and Swiss citizens of the right to own businesses or be self-employed/be freelance professionals in the UK.

In summary, the government intends to enact legislation to strip non-UK citizens of these fundamental rights. Failing to enact this today, the government aims to enact this this week.

This especially affects the translation and interpreting professions. The latter in particular could have serious implications for the justice system as many of our best interpreters are not UK citizens.

The principle of reciprocal rights means Brits in Europe could also face poor treatment in retaliation.

A colleague in Scotland called an EU citizens helpline on 0800 916 9847 and was assured that whatever happens, EU citizens with settled status (not pre-settled status, it seemed?) would be able to continue as before. However the waters are still rather murky…

This is utterly horrific. We’ve seen such disenfranchisement and even expropriation many times in history, and it’s never ended well.

I beg my readers to make some major noise about this issue.

Please read the links shared in the right hand column and take action as suggested below.

Please also note that I’m not a lawyer, and have only really been able to collate what I have read elsewhere and immediately thought of. If you have important links or info, please share them in the comments or notify me, and I will amend this article accordingly. Thanks in advance!

Please also excuse any typos – I wanted to get this out asap!

  • Raise it in your local political parties, if a member.

  • Mention it to fellow campaigners or non-party-political groups you are part of.

  • Contact your translation/interpreting associations.

  • Contact any chamber of commerce or similar organisations for the self-employed you may be part of. 

  • Share the issue widely on social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

  • Consider joining and/or donating to The 3 Million and/or British in Europe.

  • Consider donating to the Public Law Project to support their work on this and other projects to support the poor and disadvantaged, and/or the Good Law Project to support QC Jo Maugham and his work on various issues, including Brexit.

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