This week is going to be remembered as an eventful one.
On Monday, a delegation of UK negotiators spearheaded by David Davis, the UK Brexit minister, met the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier for the first time and agreed on a timetable for the talks. The outcome was a dramatic U-turn on the sequence of the Brexit negotiations. While the UK had vowed to conduct the talks for trade and divorce terms in parallel, the EU made it clear that the divorce bill will come first.
This is likely to be highly troubling for the government that is seeking to strike as many trade deals as possible on time for the immediate aftermath of Brexit.
As if this wasn’t enough food for thought, just a day later – the Guardian drops the bombshell: the government is planning on rolling out a registration program for EU migrants, to put its messy files in order ahead of Brexit.
This makes sense as one of the problems that the UK is facing at the moment is the lack of organised information on who the Europeans are – namely what they do, for how long they have been in the country, if they have a job and so on. These data are present, but they look more like a patchy jigsaw than a usable record.
That’s why up until now it was the migrant’s job to collect and organise a trail of documents rich enough to be validated by the Home Office as proof of residence. A painful process that still leads to rejection for approximately 30% of the applicants, often on flimsy grounds such as a missing bill or an ‘irregular’ passport copy.
With tens of thousands of EU citizens now rushing in panic to apply for a Permanent Residency card – with all the required mountain of documents that come with it – it’s small wonder that the government is trying to streamline the process.
However proposing a registry for EU migrants without clearly explaining what it is going to be used for and how the data will be handled seems – at the very least – a recipe for PR disaster. That, of course, if we assume that the files will be used to aid the naturalisation process and not to take away some of the rights citizens are entitled to thanks to their EU membership.
But how would this work and why would the Government do that? We don’t know yet, but there are many examples of how the Brexit talks will be perilous waters to navigate when it comes to human rights.
Nicolas Hatton, co-founder of the lobby group the 3Million, has a surprising take on the issue. He says that it’s not just the EU citizens’ rights that should be debated, but also the British people’s. He explains that the UK migration policy is damaging them most of all.
In this podcast, he also shares his views on the future of a post-Brexit UK, reveals his love for rowdy parties and recalls how the referendum broke his heart, leading to the unstoppable rise of one of the biggest civil society movement speaking up for the rights of EU migrants.