EUROPEANS living in Portsmouth battling a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’ to stay in Britain should be allowed to remain ‘by default’ without having to apply, councillors have said.
People from mainland Europe have to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they want to remain after June 2021 - being given settled or pre-settled status allowing them to do so.
But councillors at Portsmouth City Council laid bare the difficulties facing those applying to the Home Office scheme, warning the department cannot cope.
The meeting today heard some applicants have not received decision letters, while others waited 50-60 days to be given settled status.
The pre-settled status, given to those without five years’ continuous residence, is leaving people ‘even more precarious,’ Councillor Hugh Mason said.
There are 784 EU nationals registered to vote in local elections in St Jude ward alone, the meeting heard.
Liberal Democrat councillor Will Purvis, who said his partner was applying for British citizenship instead, proposed the motion. It said: ‘Another Windrush-like scandal is unfolding right before the eyes of this council and we mustn’t be passive observers to it.’
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Purvis said: ‘(At hospital) I met nurses who literally came here to fill critical shortages in our NHS - they’re saving people’s lives working 12-hour shifts then going home and fighting through paperwork.’
Cllr Purvis added: ‘Please don’t ignore the plight of EU citizens in our city. They’re our colleagues, our neighbours, and our friends and in my case my partner.
‘We should do all we can to support them no matter our views on Brexit.’
Conservative councillor Robert New said ‘we want everybody to stay that should be able to stay’, and said a friend waited up to 60 days for a decision.
Independent John Ferrett said Brexit was ‘sheer unadulterated lunacy’.
He added: ‘It’s Brexit that’s doing this to us, it’s Brexit that has the potential to destroy the very fabric of our society. That’s not being melodramatic - this motion points out the human element.’
The motion, unanimously supported, called for city council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson to write to home secretary Priti Patel and ask for EU citizens to be considered lawful by default.
It also asked for a clear deadline in the case of a no-deal Brexit and provide physical proof of those with settled status so they can access council services.