Why is Brexit compared to Windrush?

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Members of the Windrush generation had the right to live and work in the UK but were not able to document it. They got caught in the hostile environment, the web of government policies designed to make life impossible for people residing in the UK without status. Some were not able to access a place to live, some were not able to access health care and many were not able to access employment.

Why is there talk about Brexit causing Windrush on steroids?

EU nationals who are residing here before Brexit day have been promised the right to continue to reside in the UK beyond Brexit. It is mandatory for them to register for status under the EU Settlement Scheme, but the deadline is not until 31 December 2020. So until then, they might only have their EU passports to demonstrate their rights.

What about EU nationals arriving after Brexit? They too will have EU passports, but their rights will be different. Media reports released earlier this month discussed government plans to end free movement on 31 October 2019.

So EU nationals already resident in the UK would have the same documentation as those arriving after Brexit and, just like members of the Windrush generation, would not be able to demonstrate their rights. The steroids bit probably has to do with the numbers involved. It is estimated that 2.6 million people still need to comply with mandatory registration under the EU Settlement Scheme.

In fact, the ‘Windrush on steroids’ comment was first made by Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee several months ago, after the publication in January 2019 of the previous government’s plan for EU nationals arriving in the UK after Brexit: They were to be able to work in the UK for up to three months and would have to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain, if they wanted to stay longer.

So actually, we have been heading towards Windrush on steroids for EU citizens for some time, because even under the previous government’s plans, EU nationals here before Brexit and those arriving after, who may or may not have applied for European Temporary Leave to Remain, would have the same documentation, an EU passport.

The current government has announced that they are now working on a different plan for EU nationals arriving after Brexit. We do not have details.

We would recommend that businesses support their EU nationals in registering for the EU Settlement Scheme. 

About Samar Shams

Photo of Samar Shams

Immigration Law Partner at Spencer West LLP

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