Alternatives to free movement

LCHR’s preference is for a post-Brexit immigration system based on free movement or a variation of free movement. However, if this proves impossible to attain, it will be vital for Labour to ensure the most damaging aspects of the current non-EU system are not foisted on EU nationals.

In our latest briefing, we explore the pitfalls of the current system and argue that any new system implemented for EU nationals arriving in the UK from January 2021 should not mirror it.

Would you like to join LCHR’s board of directors?

LCHR is now advertising for a new non-executive director to sit on our board. If you’re an LCHR member, or if you join before the deadline, you are eligible and welcome to apply.

Please view a description of the role here. Please note, this is an incredible opportunity to get involved in the running of LCHR, but it’s also a serious responsibility. Being a non-executive director carries legal responsibilities, which you can read more about here.

If you would like to apply, please send your CV and a cover letter to andrew.noakes@lchr.org.uk by the deadline (22 April). Candidates will be shortlisted, interviewed, and then appointed by the current board. We look forward to your application!

Brexit and human rights project briefing No. 4: Variations on free movement

The Labour Campaign for Human Rights is pleased to publish the fourth briefing of our Brexit and human rights project. The briefing provides an objective human rights analysis of three proposed variations on free movement: free movement with a job offer, free movement with an emergency break, and free movement limited by regional or sectoral quotas.

The final section of this briefing considers the recurring human rights risks posed by these three alternatives to free movement, and makes some recommendations for Labour’s priorities for a humane, progressive post-Brexit immigration system.

You can read the briefing here.

LCHR’s Response to the Initial Brexit Agreement

Just when it seemed that the government’s chaotic Brexit negotiations had damaged negotiations beyond repair, Theresa May managed to scramble together a compromise on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the Irish border that enables talks to progress onto the next stage.

Yet despite the government’s subsequent victory lap, it is worth remembering that this deal was struck months later than scheduled, and contains simply the bare minimum that EU negotiators consider as constituting “adequate progress.” As European President Donald Tusk pointed out, the delayed nature of this deal means that it will be a “furious race against time” to complete the negotiations before March 2019. Most of the substantive and complex issues regarding our future relationship with the EU, including a sustainable solution for the Irish border, have simply been kicked into the not-so-long grass.

On the issue of citizens’ rights, the government must surely be wondering if months of intransigence and bluster that resulted in the needlessly protracted anxiety and uncertainty for millions was really worth it, especially as its last minute agreement largely caved to demands made previously by the EU. It is true that the deal was considerably better than the government had previously indicated, with EU citizens in the UK having the right to stay and maintain many of the rights they currently enjoy. Theresa May also bent one of her supposed ‘red lines’ by allowing the European Court of Justice to remain the final arbiter of EU citizens’ rights for 8 years after withdrawal.

Despite the deal’s positive elements, there has been much opposition to the provision that every EU citizen will have to apply for ‘settled status’ if they are to legally remain in the UK. As pointed out by one immigration expert, it is inevitable that many EU citizens currently in the UK will fail to complete the application in time, due to lack of awareness, education or simple organisation. There are also serious doubts over the Home Office’s capacity to deal with such an influx of applications, as the department currently rejects 29% of applications and recently distributed hundreds of erroneous deportation letters.  Settled status therefore risks precipitating a significant spike in undocumented and illegal migrants, who will then have to navigate the ‘hostile environment’ intentionally created by a government obsessed with reducing net migration.

One area in which the deal exceeded expectations is by making most family members of EU citizens eligible for settled status. However, EU citizens who begin a relationship with a foreign national after Brexit day will be subject to the same punitive spousal income requirements which make Britain the worst developed nation for family reunification. As Professor Steve Peers argues, this misses a vital opportunity to ‘level up’ the rights that enable us to live with our loved ones, as the current deal simply means that “migrants will be treated equally badly to nationals.”

Citizens’ rights groups have also been quick to criticise the agreement’s repercussions for UK citizens living in the EU. In July, Theresa May inexplicably rejected an offer made by the EU to guarantee the continuation of rights for Britons in the EU to move freely between member states for work, holidays or retirement. Jane Golding, Chair of British in Europe, lamented the fact that the current agreement fails to provide such a guarantee, with another campaigner describing how British citizens living abroad are “more fearful than ever of being thrown under the Brexit bus.”

It is therefore clear that, despite its generally positive reception, the minutiae of this deal have left many substantial issues unresolved. It is up to Labour to keep the pressure on the government to ensure that the rights of everyone living in Britain are safeguarded as we leave the EU.

Joe Duffy is LCHR’s Campaign Intern 

Brexit and Human Rights Briefing No.3: Free Movement and Human Rights

The Labour Campaign for Human Rights is pleased to publish our third Brexit and Human Rights Briefing: Free Movement and Human Rights.

The briefing offers an honest analysis of the system’s impact on human rights in order to aid our understanding of its alignment with progressive values and how it could fit into Labour’s approach to Brexit. This briefing situates free movement alongside Britain’s considerably less human rights compliant immigration system for those outside the EU, and argues that a priority for Labour must be to ‘level up’ rights for non-EU migrants. We also consider how Labour can listen to and recognise the concerns of voters regarding free movement, whilst also combating attempts to scapegoat migrants by redirecting the legitimate anger felt at economic insecurity towards their true sources.

Why we should be concerned by the government’s secretive approach to Brexit

The defining message of the Vote Leave campaign was that “leaving the EU … will save our sovereignty.” Before and after the referendum, leading Brexiteers within the government have embedded their arguments of global trade and reduced immigration within the noble principle that parliament, and by extension the British people it represents, remain sovereignty.

Yet this week saw yet another clear demonstration of the government curtailing parliamentary oversight of its’ disastrous Brexit strategy. After weeks of delaying tactics in which the government refused to comply with cross-party calls that it release a series of confidential studies on the economic impact of Brexit, Brexit Secretary David Davis risks becoming the first politician in centuries to be held in contempt of parliament after finally distributing incomplete and heavily edited reports.

The government withheld any information they considered ‘sensitive’, despite a binding, unanimous vote by MPs for complete access of the documents as well as reassurances by the Brexit select committee that any sensitive information would be treated appropriately. David Davis’ extreme self-editing meant that MPs received around twenty reports fewer than expected, with Keir Starmer expressing his shock at the paucity of information that the government deemed fit to share.

The fact that MPs had to utilise every parliamentary trick available just to secure the release of the modified information, including a ‘humble address’ that directly called upon The Queen to force Mr Davis to release the impact assessments, demonstrates the government’s desire to keep parliament at arms-length whilst key decisions are made by Theresa May’s core team. To then release such a watered-down version of what parliament requested was too much even for fierce Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said the government was “in serious constitutional waters if it doesn’t provide the full information … if you try to trample the rights of Commons in government … you have no means of curtailing abuses of power.”

Yet this remarkably disrespectful approach should not be surprising, as secrecy and concentration of executive power has defined this government’s approach to Brexit. The government’s ‘Great Repeal Bill’ has been widely criticised for granting extraordinarily sweeping and unchecked powers to ministers as they incorporate EU directives into British law. Meanwhile, Andrea Leadsom has also passed a motion to swing influential public bill committees in the government’s favour.

The dispute over the Brexit documents is simply the latest demonstration that, despite its empty rhetorical commitment to the sanctity of parliamentary sovereignty, this government would rather circumvent our parliamentary checks and balances. Labour must continue to oppose the government’s efforts to deliver the hard, centrally-managed Brexit that the electorate resoundingly rejected in June.

Joe Duffy is LCHR’s Campaign Intern 

Briefing: The Dangers of the Prevent Strategy

LCHR is is pleased to publish our briefing on The Dangers of the Prevent Strategy.

The briefing argues that by introducing a statutory duty for many public sector workers to identify and report individuals at risk of being drawn into terrorism, the Prevent strategy has incited suspicion, threatened human rights, and resulted in misguided referrals. We found that the strategy’s flawed assumptions, as well as the inadequate training it provides, has created an atmosphere of distrust and fear which is counterproductive to its goals.

By examining a number of case studies, this briefing argues that the Prevent strategy risks encroaching a number of core liberties, including freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom from discrimination. Prevent also disproportionately targets and impacts members of the Muslim community, with detrimental consequences for the success of Britain’s counter-terrorism initiatives.

In conclusion, LCHR recommends abolishing Prevent’s statutory duties and working with communities to find more effective, human rights-compliant alternatives.

You can read the briefing here.