Council leader calls on both sides to work harder to secure rights of Wandsworth’s EU nationals
Published: Friday 29th September 17
Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia has joined other council leaders from the capital in calling for the rights of EU citizens to live and work in London to be safeguarded and protected.
Cllr Govindia co-signed a letter this week to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier calling on him ad his team to focus their attention on securing the rights of London’s resident EU nationals.
It followed a similar letter Cllr Govindia sent to Prime Minister Theresa May in July in which he urged her and her Brexit ministers to treat this issue as their biggest priority in the negotiations .
This week’s follow up letter to Mr Barnier was also signed by the leaders of both Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
It said: “We write as Council Leaders responsible for providing local government services to residents of three central London boroughs. 80,000 nationals from EU countries other than the UK have chosen to make these boroughs their home. As their elected local representatives, we are writing to express our concern at the lack of progress on securing their rights to live and work here in London.
"We consider EU nationals living in our boroughs as our citizens. Most come here to work and, through their work, they create important economic ties between businesses in London and other parts of the EU. Many of them are raising their children and contribute a great deal to our communities here. We are proud to serve them and it is our job to represent their interests. Therefore we asking for these London families to be treated fairly. They should not have to wait for so long to have their residential status confirmed.
"The initial exchange of letters between the UK and EU negotiating teams gave us grounds for hope that an early agreement would be sought by both sides on the status of EU citizens. Since then we have seen a position paper published by the UK Government on 26 June 2017 on “Safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU”. It represented an open and generous offer to EU citizens living in the UK, and came as a relief to many of our residents who had been concerned that they might have had to go back to live in their country of origin.
"We were surprised and disappointed that a swift resolution of the issue was not reached over the summer. We have taken note of the joint technical note produced by your team on 31 August summarising the UK and EU positions. Based on the conversations we have with our resident EU nationals, your negotiating team’s delay in settling outstanding matters seems unnecessary.
"We believe that you should be seeking to reassure EU citizens - as they would wish – by reaching agreement with the UK on their status, and we would be grateful if you could act swiftly to allay their concerns and provide them with the certainty that they seek.
"We regard it as our responsibility and our duty to not only to make representations to both negotiating teams on behalf of EU citizens living in our boroughs, but also to keep them informed of the progress being made to secure their status. We are also establishing residency and passport advisory services for them, so that they know where they stand and when they will have a legal basis on which they can plan the rest of their lives.
"We would be grateful if you could respond as soon as possible to explain why agreement has not yet been reached, to demonstrate that you are taking a constructive approach and to reassure EU citizens living in London that they will continue to enjoy the lives that they have established for themselves here.
"While we very much see them as “our” citizens, they are legally yours. Having their rights confirmed as quickly as possible during the negotiations is their priority, not who wins or loses the finer points of the argument in negotiations."
- Cllr Govindia’s letter to the Prime Minister, dated July 12, called for quick action to reassure Wandworth’s EU-born residents. It stated:
“As the leader of a highly diverse and culturally rich inner London borough I want to impress upon you the significant impact the Brexit negotiations are having upon local communities here. The need to reassure the European Union nationals resident in Wandsworth about their future in the UK is a high priority for me and the Council.
"European residents make up a significant proportion of our local population and they are a part of our community right across the whole borough. They have enriched and continue to enrich our communities in more ways than I could hope to capture in this letter. They contribute greatly to public services, our vitality and to delivering the huge regeneration of our borough.
"Wandsworth is a truly great example of what a diverse and cohesive community can achieve. Our borough is home to the new US Embassy; Malaysia and China have invested heavily in our regeneration areas; we have French schools; we have places of worship for every major world faith and a great mix of nationalities from Europe and across the world. They are all part of Wandsworth’s DNA and they are critical to our future success and prosperity.
"The current uncertainly EU residents face is unfair and debilitating. While I have no doubt they will be given the right to remain, they require absolute clarity now so they can plan their lives and make informed decisions in the interests of their families, careers and businesses. As someone who came to the UK from Uganda in 1972, I recall the decisiveness with which our Party in government acted and once that decision was made how much of a relief it was to my family and many others like us.
"This council’s call for certainly is echoed by our residents, and it is no secret that Wandsworth voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in last year’s referendum, recording one of the highest remain votes in the country at 75 per cent.
"Over many years Wandsworth Council has proved that local government can affect positive change, drive economic growth and take the lead in attracting new jobs and investment to the UK. We are known as an efficient, low council tax borough that gets things done and we know our new relationship with the EU and the world will of course present new opportunities. We believe that all of Wandsworth's residents, wherever they come from, will want to play their part in this endeavour."
Cllr Govindia added today (Friday): “This is an issue of crucial importance. Both sides need to show imagination, flexibility and common sense and reach a deal that serves the interests of the many thousands of people form the EU who have made Wandsworth and London their home and contribute so much to our community and its wellbeing. I hope to see a rapid acceleration towards a good settlement of this part of the negotiations.”
- The council offers a European Passport Return Service (EPRS) so that European nationals living in Wandsworth can keep hold of their passports when applying to the Home Office for a registration certificate or a document certifying permanent residence.
The service is available to European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals once they have applied online to the Home Office. It can also be used for family members (of any nationality) who are included in the application.
The service allows eligible residents to bring their passports to the town hall to be verified and copied, and the council will then send copies to the Home Office.
It can only be used to verify and copy passports to submit with online applications. National identity cards and other supporting evidence must be submitted as originals only.
To take advantage of the service you first need to complete your online application form to the Home Office and after that, fill out the online form on the council website to make your appointment.
Once your passport(s) have been verified and sent off the council will not have any further role in your application and all further enquiries should be directed to the Home Office.
While the Brexit negotiations continue Cllr Govindia has instructed council officers to work with Citizens Advice Wandsworth to develop a new specialist advice service for local European citizens to provide guidance on how the Government’s proposals could affect them.
For more information on council services and support for European nationals visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/eusupport