THE announcement of a “Settled Status” for EU citizens after Brexit is, in effect, telling people who have lived in the UK for years that they were “never really one of us”, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has said.
The Home Office said in a message posted on Twitter this week: “EU citizens and their families will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after December 31, 2020.”
As part of the announcement, an accompanying video explained that they should apply, and pay £65, “if they want to stay in the UK” after Brexit. The video was criticised for its upbeat tone and cheery music.
EU nationals will have until 30 June 2021 to confirm their status. It will cost £65 for those over 16, and £32.50 for those under 16. Those who already have indefinite leave to remain in the UK or permanent residence will not have to pay.
People will have to have been resident before 31 December 2020 in order to apply for the scheme.
Speaking on Monday, Bishop Baines said that he would be “outraged” about the announcement of settled status if he were an EU national living in the UK.
He said that, while he could “fully understand” the need for a new system to be set up after Brexit, it “needs to be handled more equitably, justly, and kindly”.
He went on: “I have a number of priests who are EU nationals that are very anxious. The Church is just one organisation that will want to ask questions of Government over the sensitivity of this scheme — or the lack of it.”
The Team Rector in the Richmond Team Ministry, the Revd Wilma Roest, is an EU national. After the announcement, she posted a message on Twitter: “After 30 years of living and working, and paying taxes, in the UK, I have to apply to be allowed to stay and continue doing what I love and feel called to do. Wonder what ‘my employer’ thinks of it all?”
Speaking on Monday, she said: “It is the language that shocked me — the language of having to apply. It implies that you can be turned down. There is a sense that you are not really a part of the UK.
“There are uncomfortable echoes to things that have happened in our recent European history, especially in the 20th century and the 1930s. It is very insensitive.”
Ms Roest went on: “As an ordained person, it feels even weirder: my vocation was realised in this country; I have been a C of E priest for 19 years.”
She said that members of the clergy who were EU nationals would be helped by pastoral reassurance from their diocese, but also support from the national Church. “The national Church should speak out on the matter — we have not heard much from them at all.”