EU NATIONALS living in Oxfordshire have hit out at a Government scheme forcing them to pay to stay in the country after Brexit.

Workers in science, teaching and the NHS have expressed fears that the EU Settlement Scheme could damage the UK economy and make the country less welcoming.

The Home Office was criticised just after Christmas for tweeting a ‘cheery’ video outlining how EU nationals living in Britain have to apply to stay in the country and spend £65 to do so. Under-16s will be charged £32.50.

Danielle Bedwin, 72, originally from France and now living in Thame, said: "Next year I will have lived 50 years in this country, which I have always considered my home. My husband is British, we have three grown-up children with families of their own. I pay my taxes and am a law-abiding citizen.

"Now I will be asked to pay £65 to be granted the right to carry on living in my home. I feel angry, upset, humiliated, exploited, discriminated against, insulted and deeply saddened. For the first time since I came here, I feel like a foreigner who is not welcome here."

 

Danielle Bedwin

The retired modern languages teacher praised British friends, but continued: “Since the referendum, I have witnessed how a country admired for its fair play, tolerance and openness to other cultures has turned inward-looking, intolerant, dismissive of the contribution to prosperity and cultural wealth migration brought to its shores.

“I used to feel proud to say I lived in England to friends and family on the continent – I feel ashamed now.”

A 56-year-old, who is originally from Germany and wants to remain anonymous, echoed Mrs Bedwin’s views about feeling unwelcome and added: “I used to feel very integrated but now I feel like a second-class citizen.

"We were kept in limbo for over 900 days and it feels unpleasant to be treated like a bargaining chip.

“I have lived in the UK for over 37 years and have resided in East Oxford for the last 12 years. I am very cross about this and in my case I have just spent £1,330.00 on an application for British citizenship.

“On the whole, EU citizens living and working in the UK have been treated very shabbily since the referendum.”

According to June 2018 estimates from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, about 48,000 EU nationals live in Oxfordshire.

About 17,000 of those lived in Oxford.

Banbury Cake:

One is Alexandrine Kantor, 31, who is originally from France and has lived in the UK for nearly five years.

She said that she did not ‘trust’ the Home Office with her data in the application and that she would wait until the last moment to apply – despite believing EU nationals should not have to pay to stay.

The 31-year-old engineer added that since the referendum she had witnessed more racism in this country, citing how her accent was more frequently asked about and ‘no longer cute’.

She said she now felt she had ‘made the wrong choice’ by coming to the UK.

For more information on the EU Settlement Scheme go to gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families

DISGRACEFUL POLICY WILL HIT NHS:

REPRESENTATIVES from the health sector have expressed concerns about the impact of Brexit on the NHS nationwide.

One doctor working in Oxford, who did not want to be identified and is not an EU national, believes the EU Settlement Scheme fee could be another reason for EU nationals wanting to leave the UK.

They said: “There are a great number of health care professionals who will be affected across the region.

“Many EU nationals feel very unwelcome. It’s not so much the cost, but what it represents. It’s another way the Government is telling EU nationals, who may have spent their lives in the UK, that they are not welcome and that we are going to charge you to contribute to our NHS.”

The doctor labelled the charge a ‘disgrace’ and continued: “We don’t have the luxury of losing a single health professional but because of this charge people are going back home.”

BUSINESSES FEAR FOR FUTURE: READ THE LONGER PIECE HERE 

BUSINESSES in Oxfordshire have said they will support staff who want to stay in the UK – but raised concerns about attracting and retaining EU nationals in future.

Both Oxford University and Oxford University Hospitals Trust – which runs the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals – are offering to cover the £65 fee for the EU Settlement Scheme.

Diamond Light Source research facility at Harwell Campus told the Oxford Mail that it would also cover the fee and support the 16 per cent of its 700 staff who are EU nationals.

Aerial view of the Diamond Light Source, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on the Harwell Science & Innovation campus in Oxfordshire, 12th June 2010.Aerial view of the Diamond Light Source, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on the Harwell Science & Innovation campus in Oxfordshire, 12th June 2010.

Diamond Light Source

But a spokesperson added that some staff had already left and applications to join were already down as a result of Brexit.

Florence Rossignol, the manager of Alliance Francaise Oxford, which recruits qualified French teachers, said it was now difficult to recruit staff from France and that the fee was an ‘unfriendly’ move.

She said: “It used to be a very attractive place to work, but now EU nationals will think twice about it.”

At a meeting late last year, Linda Bell, CEO of Mirico, told Wantage MP Ed Vaizey: “We have noticed a reduction in interest from EU citizens in the last year or so and our existing employees who are EU citizens have expressed concern about their future status.”

THE HOME OFFICE POSITION:

THE Government has defended the EU nationals scheme as ‘simple and straightforward’ and says it wants EU citizens to stay.

Tweeting on December 27, the Home Office briefly explained the process, which it said would be ‘quick and user-friendly as possible’.

The video states: "If you are an EU citizen living in the UK and want to stay in the UK after 31 December 2020, you and your family need to apply to the EU settlement scheme (which opens on March 30)".

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has called for cladding on schools and hospitals to be tested for fire safetyCommunities secretary Sajid Javid has called for cladding on schools and hospitals to be tested for fire safety

Sajid Javid

A Home Office spokeswoman added: “The EU Settlement Scheme will make it simple and straightforward for EU citizens to get the status they need.

“The cost of applying to the scheme is less than the cost of renewing a British passport, and EU citizens have until June 2021 to apply.”

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, has previously said: “With the scheme, we’re meeting our commitment to secure the rights of EU citizens who are already in this country, contributing in so many ways, they’re working, they’re studying, or for other reasons.

“We want them to stay and we want to make that process of staying as easy as possible.”

'NOT UNREASONABLE' SAY OXFORD TORIES

THE Government’s EU Settlement Scheme has some support among local politicians, with Oxford Conservatives saying the fee is ‘not unreasonable’.

Mark Bhagwandin, pictured, the group’s deputy chairman, said he would be ‘surprised’ if EU nationals were outraged at having to pay £65 to stay.

He explained: “I see no real issue with the fee. I am an immigrant myself and when I applied to remain it ran into thousands of pounds.

 

Mark Bhagwandin

“At the moment non-EU nationals applying for settlement pay over £1,400 for the first applicant and thousands more for each dependant.

“The Home Office expects there to be over three million applications for settlement from EU nationals and there will be a tremendous cost to the taxpayer in processing those applications. We have to find that money from somewhere and I don’t think asking EU nationals to pay less than £100 is an unreasonable request.

“If it was running into hundreds or thousands of pounds then I would have an issue with it. Asking people for an amount that is not exorbitant is reasonable.”

He continued: “I don’t think it is penalising them. (They are being given) documents to legalise their status here.

“People from the Commonwealth are paying thousands of pounds. It’s quite a small fee relative to that. I would be surprised if EU nationals were outraged about that.”