EU nationals suffering 'unlawful discrimination' over Brexit uncertainty, campaigners warn

Brexit Secretary David Davis
Brexit Secretary David Davis
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MPs and campaigners have issued an urgent call for greater clarity over the rights of EU citizens after Brexit, following reports that individuals are being barred from applying for jobs and accommodation as a result of the uncertainty surrounding their future status.

The allegations, which have been highlighted by the Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield, include properties being advertised for UK citizens only, agents outlining different terms for EU nationals, and travel agencies declining to take bookings from non-UK passport holders.

Paul Blomfield's letter

Paul Blomfield's letter

The Labour MP claims these instances of “unlawful discrimination” are a result of widespread uncertainty among UK employers, which has been fueled by “confusion” over the guarantees that are being offered by the British Government.

He has written to Brexit Secretary David Davis calling on him to review the allegations “without delay”, and urging him to outline what action he and fellow ministers “will take to deal with it”.

“These allegations of unlawful discrimination against EU nationals are deeply worrying and expose the uncertainty across the services industry,” Mr Blomfield said.

“This lack of clarity, and the discrimination that it appears to be giving rise to, are a result of the climate of confusion and ambiguity that the Government is cultivating.

“It is totally unacceptable. Businesses and EU nationals desperately require clarity and certainty.

“This why the Labour party has consistently called for an agreement on the rights of EU nationals and UK citizens in the EU to be secured urgently.”

Further examples of discrimination cited in Mr Blomfield’s letter include job adverts requiring applicants to hold a British passport or proof of Indefinite Leave to Remain. It also claims employers being advised to specify in contracts that the loss of right to work will result in immediate dismissal.

According to Nicolas Hatton, of the campaign group The 3 Million, many of these instances can be traced back to an uncertainty around the cut-off date at which a European migrant no longer has an automatic right to remain in the UK.

Papers published by the Government ahead of negotiations with Brussels state only that this date “will be no earlier than the 29 March 2017, the date the formal Article 50 process for exiting the EU was triggered, and no later than the date of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU”.

Mr Hatton said there were also issues around the lack of specific documentation available to EU nationals to act as proof to employers of their right to remain . “Businesses are starting to protect themselves... because they don’t necessarily know whether in two years time these people are still eligible to live or work in the UK,” Mr Hatton told the Yorkshire Post.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg really, because these are the openly discriminative job specs and terms and conditions.... we don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors.

“The most important thing now is ending the uncertainty over the cut-off date and around the documentation. Businesses need to be reassured.”

A DExEU spokesperson said: "We are crystal clear that it is completely unacceptable for people to experience discrimination because of their nationality: any such discrimination is illegal.

"We are putting citizens first in our exit negotiations and want them to have as much certainty as possible.

"EU nationals living in the UK make a vital contribution to British society and local economies, which is why we have outlined a fair and serious offer to protect their rights, allowing them to live broadly as they do now."