Home Office interrupt Christmas with reminders to EU citizens

Online Brexit reactions

EU nationals and their British families – and their friends and neighbours – reacted with anger to last week’s Home Office video outlining the application process for EU citizens who want to continue living in the country after 31 December 2020.

The cheery stock images available from Getty were hitherto used in entirely unrelated advertising campaigns in Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the US and in the Home Office ad to give an upbeat tone for a message that threatens deportation to people who have lived and worked here for decades.

It was released at 8.30am on 27 December.

The satirical Twitter account @theIrishBorder pointed out that the images have titles like ‘Happy multi-ethic group of people sitting at the fast food restaurant, stock photo’ and ‘Family walking in Chinatown London’ and were previously used to advertise a bank in Australia, a reading scheme in the US, a technology grant in Canada and an ad campaign in South Africa.

Irish diplomats and ministers insist there is no threat to the rights of Irish people – EU citizens themselves – in this country because of the Common Travel Area despite the fact this is just a political agreement that may be reversed subject to political whims.

They point out that Irish citizens are perfectly free to register as EU citizens under the Home Office scheme – which with its requirement to register or face deportation falls very, very far short of earlier promises made by Prime Minister Theresa May and pro-Brexit enthusiasts like Michael Gove – but repeat it is not necessary.

The Home Office video announcing the so-called EU Citizens’ Settlement scheme released on Twitter over the Christmas features jolly music and bought-in, stock images of smiling people.

The upbeat voiceover says: “Getting status under the scheme means you can continue to live, work and study in the UK as you can now.

“We’re making the application process as quick and user-friendly as possible.”

The scheme is being tested and is scheduled to operational by 30 March. It will check the identity, UK residence status and criminal record of all EU citizens living in the UK – no matter how long they have lived here. It has also caused concern because of the absence of any control or oversight as to what it will do – including commercial exploitation – with people’s personal data.

It will cost £65 for an adult and £32.50 for children under 16 and, as things stand under current Home Office guidance, will be free for those who have a permanent residence card or indefinite leave to remain.

There have been multiple reports that the smartphone app developed especially for the scheme is unreliable on Android and does not work at all on Apple’s iPhones.

Lib Dem MP for Kingston and Surbiton Ed Davey responded to the Home Office tweet: “Brexit-backing MPs should hang their heads in shame. Look at what you are doing to millions of our fellow citizens who have lived & worked in our country for years.”

Labour MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy wrote: “A ‘jolly’ message this Christmas from govt to say Brexit means we want to charge you to live in the country you have made your home and contributed so much to over decades. EU friends and neighbours – you deserve so much better than this. UK – be better than this!”


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