The Labour Party has called on Brexit secretary David Davis to take action over reports of increasing discrimination against European Union nationals in the UK.
According to campaign group the3million, EU citizens living and working in this country – many of them public service workers – are experiencing discrimination when applying for jobs and housing.
Some even face trouble when trying to book their holidays with travel agencies.
Their growing problems come as Brexit talks between the UK government and EU negotiators are already threatening to break down – in part over workers’ rights.
“The government has a responsibility to explain to people that EU citizens have a right to be here and cannot and should not be discriminated against,” commented UNISON head of strategic organising Greg Thompson.
“And if the government doesn’t make that clear, it makes it even more likely that we will experience shortages in our public services as EU citizens vote with their feet.”
Many EU citizens have experienced racial abuse and physical violence from since the referendum vote to leave the EU.
But according to the3million, which campaigns to safeguard and guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Europe after Brexit, that discrimination has entered the labour market and service industries.
It has examples of discrimination that include:
- terms and conditions that prescribe UK or Irish citizenship;
- rental properties advertised for UK citizens only, or outlining different terms for EU nationals;
- a property development company selling MI New Home housing that requires buyers to be UK citizens or have indefinite leave to remain;
- travel agencies declining to take bookings from non-British and non-Irish citizens, and cancelling holidays already booked by EU nationals from other countries;
- a law firm advising that employment contracts incorporate clauses that specify that the loss of right to work will result in immediate dismissal.
Labour’s shadow Brexit minister Paul Blomfield has written to David Davis, voicing his “deep concern” over the reports and asking what action the government intends to take about them.
“I am sure that you would agree these reports are a cause for alarm, reflecting uncertainty across the business sector and discrimination experienced by EU nationals,” Mr Blomfield writes.
“The lack of detail forthcoming from the government is contributing to this climate of uncertainty and confusion.”
Meanwhile, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said that the lack of progress made in phase one of the Brexit negotiations, which includes citizens’ rights, “means more waiting and more anxiety for millions of families.”
But Mr Starmer told UNISON: “EU citizens have come to this country not just to contribute to our communities, but to actually be a part of our communities. We will fight and fight to make sure their rights are fully protected.”
Around 70,000 UISON members are EU nationals, and is joining the3million and others in a mass lobby of Parliament on 13 September in defence of their rights.
The lobby will put the following demands to MPs:
- keep the rights already held by EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU;
- guarantee those rights for life under the European Court of Justice;
- support ring-fencing an agreement on citizens’ rights from the rest of the UK/EU negotiations;
- introduce a free, easy-to-use registration process for EU citizens in the UK.
There will also be a gathering at the nearby Emmanuel Centre, where Mr Starmer will be among the speakers.