The Liberal Democrats have warned that Julian Knight, Conservative MP for Solihull and Saqib Bhatti, Conservative MP for Meriden, are risking a “new Windrush-style scandal”, after they both voted to refuse to offer EU citizens physical proof of their right to stay in the UK.
On Monday (19th October), Tory MPs overturned a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Immigration Bill, which passed in the House of Lords just weeks ago. The amendment would require the Home Office to give EU Citizens physical proof of Settled and Pre-Settled Status, rather than the digital-only system the Home Office is currently pursuing.
Conservatives in the House of Commons rejected the amendment by 331 votes to 260. Julian Knight and Saqib Bhatti were among those voting to scrap the amendment, while Liberal Democrat MPs and MPs in all other parties voted to retain it.
The latest Home Office figures show that, as of the end of June, 3,430 people in Solihull and Meriden have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme for the right to stay in the UK after the Brexit transition period ends. 1,950 have been granted Settled Status so far, while a further 1,260 have been granted temporary Pre-Settled Status.
Following the vote, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:
“The Conservatives’ decision to overturn this Liberal Democrat amendment shows how empty their promises to guarantee citizens’ rights after Brexit really are. Their Hostile Environment is, sadly, alive and well.
“The Windrush Scandal showed the devastating impact of the Hostile Environment on people who cannot easily prove their rights. By denying EU citizens physical proof of Settled Status, the Government risks making them the victims of a new Windrush-style Scandal.”
Councillor Ade Adeyemo, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Solihull, said:
“EU citizens in Solihull and Meriden are our families and friends, our colleagues and carers. They have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for far too long.
“By refusing to provide EU citizens with physical proof of their rights and forcing them to rely on a digital code and an online Home Office database, Julian Knight and Saqib Bhatti are putting them at risk of discrimination.
“Liberal Democrats are fighting for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, with physical proof of their status.”