I’m a non-EU migrant to the UK, so know how stressful it is to deal with the Home Office even when your case is uncomplicated, but it staggers me to think how much additional stress has been added for migrants by the fee increases since we arrived.
J. and I came to the UK on an ancestry visa in 2001, applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain in 2005 and naturalisation in 2006; I don’t have the receipts onhand, but it looks as if it would have been about a thousand pounds for ILR and naturalisation for the pair of us, and maybe a few hundred more for the initial visa and for the Life in the UK test. There was no healthcare charge at that time.
For a couple to come to the UK on an ancestry visa today, apply for ILR and then apply for naturalisation, will now cost them over twelve thousand pounds. A few weeks ago I would have said over ten thousand, but the healthcare charge has just doubled to £400 per person per year, adding £2000 per couple over the five years until they can get ILR.
The two of us sure aren’t making ten times what we were making in the early 2000s. Having to budget two grand a year of our disposable income to pay for all of that would have had a huge impact on our initial years in the UK.
Now even returning Britons are getting caught up in the Hostile Environment. Even Steve Bullock, ex-negotiator for the UK in the EU (pre-referendum), had "no idea" until yesterday that UK citizens returning after years abroad, even if those years were in the EU, face a wait of 3 months or more (depending on how long they were away) before they can access benefits:
Rules that came into force on 1 January 2014 mean that, if you’re claiming income-based jobseeker’s allowance and do need to show that you are habitually resident, you cannot be viewed as habitually resident until you’ve been living in the UK or elsewhere in the common travel area [UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Ireland] for at least three months.
So if Britain crashes out without a deal and a million Britons living in Europe find themselves having to move back, they’d better have homes and jobs to come back to, or they’ll find themselves living on the streets. This isn’t hypothetical: it’s already happening.
It feels surreal that one of my main concerns about the prospect of a Leave win in the weeks before the referendum is only now, in November 2018, four months before we crash out, coming into focus in the national debate about leaving. And that our prime minister is acting (either genuinely or disingenuously, it hardly matters which) as if she hadn’t realised it would be a problem:
There are many things Britons will be giving up if they reject the EU next week. Short-term financial security will be high on the list, with the pound set to crash and many international companies set to relocate. Having a say in the environmental and energy policies of an entire continent will be another. But for me, at the top of the list is the ability to inspire Britain’s young people with the possibility of living and working in any of 27 other European countries for little more than the cost of getting there.
Actually, I was wrong on one point: it’s 30 other countries, when you include Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Plus Liechtenstein, if you get one of their 56 EEA residence permits issued per year.
If MPs and even government ministers don’t seem aware of or care about such a huge loss of rights, it’s no wonder so many people still think Brexit will be a splendid wheeze.
Gina Miller of End the Chaos at a debate in London today: We discovered that a vast swathe of people who would vote for no deal across the country would do so because their perception is that no deal means remaining.
I wonder if Miller’s research was uncovering people who believe that if we leave with no deal then all of our current arrangements would remain, and they can then build on them to implement the changes they want, like keeping out immigrants. Cakeism, in other words. There’s always been plenty of that.
When so many seem to have shifted from “Brexit will be all upside, everything will be better” to “it’s worth any amount of disruption and pain to leave”, it’s hard to keep second-guessing their way of thinking.
Adapted from my recent comments in the latest Mefi Brexit thread.