Having Our Cake and Eating It

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
7 December 2016

Campaigners from The 3 Million say it will take the Home Office 47 years to process applications from EU citizens for permanent residency.

Theresa May has consistently said that rights for EU citizens were a legitimate part of Brexit negotiations but on Thursday night the Government seemed to go one step further by indicating that the rights of EU nationals could be removed if not reciprocated. The estimate of time it will take the Home Office officials to deal with the three million EU citizens in the UK is based on the latest immigration data which shows a surge in applications for permanent residence since the EU referendum, which would cause a back log of 100,000 applications. Data published on Thursday shows that 30% of applications are rejected and many EU citizens are unable to deal with the paperwork despite their legal rights to reside in the UK.

It is obvious that following the referendum a shock wave has been going through the communities of EU nationals who have built their lives in the United Kingdom. Many of our clients are surprised that they might no longer be able to live, work or study or to maintain contact with their British children or to retire in the United Kingdom.

In the meantime David Davis and Philip Hammond surprised everyone by expressing willingness to pay to retain lucrative single market access, saying that Britain could end up paying the European Union in order to retain access to the single market. Theresa May has never made ongoing financial contributions a red line, unlike controlling immigration, but it seems that the unrealistic expectations of “having your cake and eating it” approach might not continue.

So far the UK Government has not taken any decisions on whether it wanted to join the Customs Union which is at the heart of the European Free Trade area and it may be that the UK is looking to pay to retain access to the single market during the transitional period on the way to Brexit, so as to smooth things over. Labour MP Angela Eagle says that this kind of an admission underlined how flimsy many of the promises made by the leave campaign had been and the UKIP donor Arron Banks described Mr Davis’ remark as an “incredibly foolish concession by a politician who knows nothing about business or negotiations” and suggested that he should buy a copy of the book “Negotiation of dummies”.