Council should write to EU citizens to ‘avoid another scandal like Windrush’

The council was urged by the Lib Dem party to write to EU nationals living in the South Northants district. Picture by Jeff J Mitchell / Staff
The council was urged by the Lib Dem party to write to EU nationals living in the South Northants district. Picture by Jeff J Mitchell / Staff

South Northamptonshire Council is to consider whether it should write to EU citizens living in the district with advice on applying for settled status.

Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Lofts has submitted a motion calling on the council to write to EU citizens who live in the area informing them of the potential consequences of not applying for the EU Settlement scheme.

In his motion, Councillor Lofts will say he wants the UK to avoid another ‘Windrush-like’ scandal.

He will say: “Nationals from the other 27 EU member states are part of our shared communities alongside UK citizens. They are our husbands, wives, parents, friends and colleagues. They are an integral part of a vibrant and thriving South Northamptonshire.

“Since 2016 EU nationals were promised again and again that there will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK and they will be treated no less favourably as they are at present.

“After three years of living in limbo, their homes and livelihoods are in danger of being threatened by the further uncertainty brought about by the prospect of a chaotic Brexit.”

As well as the letter to residents, he proposes that officers report on how the council can ‘mitigate adverse impacts’ on the rights of EU nationals.

He adds: “This includes but is not limited to advising on what the council can do to help landlords and employers to be better informed about immigration status and therefore avoid potential discrimination against EU nationals.”

Home Office figures for July show that a million of the estimated three million EU citizens in the UK have yet to apply for settled status, which will allow them to stay in the UK.

Councillor Lofts says: “There is no possibility of knowing how many EU nationals need to apply, leaving vulnerable and unaware EU nationals at risk of becoming unlawful residents at the mercy of the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’.

“If we leave, a lack of clarity regarding differentiating between EU citizens arriving before and after the UK’s exit from the EU could lead to discrimination in the labour market and may prevent many from accessing the services that they are entitled to.

“Another Windrush-like scandal could be unfolding right before the eyes of this council and we mustn’t be passive observers to it.”

Councillors will debate the motion when they meet at The Forum in Towcester on Wednesday (October 23).

Councillor Lofts will hope that Conservative councillors in the chamber will be more receptive to the idea than their colleagues at Daventry District Council, who recently dismissed a similar motion from the Labour party.