Automatic transformation of EU citizenship rights is the way forward

The British Home Office has created a bureaucratic nightmare for EU citizens applying for permanent residency. Might there be a better way forward?

According to official figures there are over three million non-UK EU citizens living in the United Kingdom, many of which live in Bristol. Following the referendum of 23 June 2016 and the notification by the UK government to withdraw from the European Union many of those citizens are naturally feeling anxious about Brexit and the future of their rights in this country. What will happen to them once the UK leaves the EU is still unclear. In the Guidelines Following the UK’s Notification under Article 50 TEU adopted on 29 April 2017, the EU 27 recognise that “the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the Union creates significant uncertainties that have the potential to cause disruption”, notably for “[c]itizens who have built their lives on the basis of rights flowing from the British membership of the EU [and] face the prospect of losing those rights”.

Clarifying the status of EU citizens could have been done unilaterally by the British government. It chose not to, however, arguing that the status of UK nationals in EU states also needed to be addressed and reciprocal rights offered. Although the issue was raised in parliament during the debate over the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill legal uncertainty remains. The European Union has on several occasions stressed that finding a solution to this issue was paramount and needed to be tackled at an early stage of the Brexit negotiations. Indeed as stressed in paragraph eight of the EU 27’s guidelines, “[t]he right for every EU citizen, and of his or her family members, to live, to work or to study in any EU Member State is a fundamental aspect of the European Union”.

This was the main theme of the workshop ‘Bristol in Flux: Suspended Citizenship’ organised by the University of Bristol on 3 April 2017 to which we, as lecturers in EU Law at the University of the West of England and authors of the textbook European Union Law, were invited. One of the subtopics broached at the workshop was the fate of long-term EU residents who seem to be most affected by Brexit. The debate predominantly centred upon two themes of immediate practical relevance: first, the conditions for obtaining a UK status, and second, the processes and practicalities of transforming their EU status into a UK status. Continue reading

Brexit and unemployment: where bureaucracy becomes brutal

Receiving jobseeker’s allowance isn’t enough for EEA nationals to prove they are looking for work. But if that’s not sufficient, what is?

An image of people walking past a job centre plus

By J J Ellison (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) – anyone would be forgiven for thinking this is a descriptive term. An allowance – “a sum of money paid regularly to a person to meet needs or expenses”, as the dictionary terms it – for those seeking (looking for) a job. But according to the Home Office unit which processes applications for permanent residence from EEA citizens, this is not the case. For such applications, being in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance is not evidence of actively seeking work.

Many EEA citizens wishing to secure their status in post-Brexit Britain are applying for permanent residency, an essential step on the path to British citizenship. Immigrants from outside the EEA can usually get permanent residency (‘indefinite leave to remain’) after five years of lawful residence. EEA citizens also become eligible for permanent residence after five years of living in the UK. But although their residence may have been lawful, the government is placing additional barriers in the way of EEA citizens obtaining permanent residence, resulting in a state of ‘suspended citizenship’. Continue reading

Making sense of Brexit: foreigners in defence of foreigners’ rights

There are a reported three million EU citizens and more than five million non-EU citizenships in Britain. Why aren’t they organising ahead of the election?

People on a march with Brexit signs

Stop Brexit, National march to Parliament. London, UK. 25 March 2017. Ik Aldama/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

The triggering of article 50 on 29 March and the call for snap elections on 18 April 2017 represent the political consolidation of a conservative turn in the national agenda. Both issues also represent the political legitimation of a ‘hard Brexit’ and the correlative defeat of democratic and progressive forces. In almost a year since the referendum, political parties and organised sectors of civil society have been unable to articulate a successful opposition to the conservative turn and the political alignment of the country under the still fragile power of the current government.

In particular for foreigners (EU and non-EU immigrants), this alignment implies the radicalisation of an explicit agenda of reduction and re-evaluation of rights that leaves us without any significant representation in the British side of the negotiations. If the June election represents a new political opportunity, then the challenge is to organise our communities. In this article I would like to suggest some ways a social movement of foreigners might be able to defend the civil rights of immigrants and counterbalance the conservative turn during the Brexit negotiations. Continue reading

#BristolBrexit: a city responds to Brexit

Stokes Croft, Bristol. Jim Killock/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)

Dr Jon Fox, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Jon Fox is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Sociology, Politics, and International Studies and the Assistant Director of the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol.  His research focusses on racism in relation to East European nationals living and working in the UK. He tweets @jonefox23.

Uncertainty is plaguing the transition to a post-Brexit Britain. Cities can, and must, address it head on in ways that work best for them.

The plot thickens. When Theresa May called a snap general election for 8 June she introduced the latest twist in the sordid Brexit tale that has been unravelling over the past year. The emerging plotline is peopled by a colourful cast of heroes and villains (though who fills which role is a matter of personal taste), teeming with intrigue and innuendo, and vacillating daily (or hourly) between tragedy and comedy.

We can ask how we got here, or prophesise about what the future holds, or pound the streets with our campaign of choice. We can also wring our hands, pray to our gods, and retreat into a life of Brexit-free asceticism. Or we can do something about the uncertainty that Brexit has produced. All these plot twists, the relentless manoeuvrings, and the onslaught of contradicting predictions have produced for many a paralysing uncertainty. Post-Brexit Britain has become a world of ‘what ifs’, and until documents are signed in Brussels it will remain as such. It’s not Brexit we need to deal with, it’s the uncertainty Brexit has created. Continue reading

Sharing stories of migration and belonging

Dr Devyani Prabhat, Lecturer in Law, School of Law

Dr Devyani Prabhat, Lecturer in Law, School of Law

Last month I led an ESRC Funded Thinking Futures Event on Migration and Belonging at the St Werburgh’s Community Centre, Bristol. The event was attended by twenty-six people who had experience of applying for British citizenship or had personal stories to share about migration. Storytelling gives a direct voice to research participants and this was the theme of the event. Artist Sam Church who is a graphic artist simultaneously sketched the stories which were being shared. Continue reading

Unequal political rights: the case for immigrant suffrage in the UK

Dr Sean Fox, Lecturer in Urban Geography and Global Development, University of Bristol

Dr Sean Fox, Lecturer in Urban Geography and Global Development, University of Bristol

The distribution of political rights in the UK undermines the assumption of equality that underpins democratic practice, writes Sean Fox. He makes the case for extending voting rights to all legal immigrants living in the UK – whose lives are affected by government decisions as much as those who, by virtue of their citizenship, get to have a say in elections.

The vote to leave the EU was fundamentally undemocratic. Theresa May’s clear determination to plough ahead with Brexit therefore compounds an act of injustice that reveals a basic flaw at the heart of Britain’s electoral system. If this seems a provocative opening salvo for a radical cosmopolitan polemic, you may be surprised by the current distribution of voting rights in the UK.

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Why we need to teach political philosophy in schools

Dr Jonathan Floyd, Lecturer in Political Theory, SPAIS, University of Bristol

Dr Jonathan Floyd, Lecturer in Political Theory, SPAIS, University of Bristol

What is the spectre haunting Europe today? It’s simple. The thing that truly dogs us, that really drags at our heels, is ignorance. Ignorance of the fundamental ideas at the heart of politics. Ignorance of the key terms of political argument: liberty, equality, power, justice, and so on. Ignorance of the subject matter of political philosophy.

This ignorance is a spectre precisely because it is invisible to us. You might, for example, not know how a microwave works. But you know you do not know that. Now imagine there are purple aliens growing yellow mushrooms on the other side of the moon. In this case you are unaware that you unaware of them.

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Multiculturalism can foster a new kind of post-Brexit Englishness

Tariq Modood is Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy

Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy, University of Bristol

The Brexit referendum result was a shock. Especially surprising – given that the whole exercise was as a result of the divisions within the Conservative Party – was the fact that about 30% of those who voted Labour in 2015 voted Leave. It is clear that the Leave vote disproportionately consisted of those without a degree and over the age of 45. Equally over-represented in the Leave vote in England were those who say they are more English than British or only English and not British.

There is some reason to suppose that this new and rising English nationalism is anti-immigration, and even worse – given that England is a highly diverse country – anti-multiculturalist. While it is worrying that the Brexit result seems to have led to an uptick in racial abuse and harassment, there is no reason to suppose that English nationalism and multiculturalism must be opposed to each other.

To many, multiculturalism as a political idea in Britain suffered a body blow in 2001. In the shock of 9/11 terrorism and after race riots in some northern English towns, many forecastthat its days were numbered. If these blows were not fatal, multiculturalism was then surely believed to have been killed off by the 7/7 attacks in London in 2005 and the terrorism and hawkish response to it that followed. But this is far too simplistic.

And today, a multicultural identity among some ethnic minorities could help to create more of a sense of “British identity” among the English.

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British citizenship and the vagaries of foreign nationality laws

Dr Devyani Prabhat, Lecturer in Law, School of Law

Dr Devyani Prabhat, Lecturer in Law, School of Law

The security of someone’s status as a British citizen would not generally be expected to depend upon the operation of foreign nationality laws. It seems logical that there should be something fundamentally British about British citizenship. However, it is often the case that when decisions are made by the special court – the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) – the vagaries of foreign laws play a part in determining who gets to continue as a British citizen and who does not. One such case was decided this month by the UK Supreme Court after having been heard by the SIAC in 2008 on appeal from an order made by the Secretary of State in 2007. This is the case of Mr Al Jedda. ([2013] UKSC 62; judgement delivered on 9th October 2013).

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