Brexit

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 6th November 2019.

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Photo of Fiona Twycross Fiona Twycross Labour

Will you be holding more ‘We are all Londoners’ events?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Chair. Yes. I will continue to champion and celebrate our city’s diversity, doing everything I can to support European Londoners through the Brexit process. Since the referendum decision was made, I have been clear that despite Brexit, over 1 million EU citizens living in London are Londoners. They are our friends, neighbours and colleagues. They are facing the biggest change in rights and immigration status in our country for a generation. European Londoners face huge anxiety and uncertainty caused by the Government’s threat of a no-deal Brexit, confusion over the deadline for securing their status, and threats of deportation if they miss the deadline.

As last week’s official application figures show, they are being let down by a Government that is not doing enough to ensure Europeans do not face a crisis, akin to the Windrush scandal. We know that nearly 2 million of the UK’s EU nationals and their families have not applied for settled status. Polish nationals have the lowest uptake, despite being a large proportion of EU citizens in the UK.

I am doing everything in my power as Mayor to ensure that European Londoners can access the support and the information they need to secure their rights. It is also important to recognise and celebrate their contribution to the capital. That is why we welcomed over 1,200 Londoners to City Hall last month to watch the UK’s first EU settlement ceremony and to explore and enjoy European culture and music. Five hundred of these Londoners accessed free pro bono one-to-one legal advice on the EU settlement process. Remarkably, Conservative Members of the Assembly criticised me for holding this event.

In March [2019] we held the London is Open community advice roadshow, providing free immigration advice to over 1,000 European Londoners across ten boroughs. We also launched the EU Londoners Hub in March, which has already been accessed over 271,000 times, providing EU citizens and their families with crucial information about living in London after we leave the EU. We are working with civil society to deliver even more direct support to vulnerable EU Londoners through a micro-grant programme, funding 15 community projects to date.

Photo of Fiona Twycross Fiona Twycross Labour

Thank you. I would like to thank all those involved not just in the ‘We Are All Londoners’ events but in all the events and work designed to make our EU fellow Londoners feel welcome in the city. I have to on this occasion declare a personal interest because I went with my husband, who is a European Economic Area (EEA) citizen with pre-settled status. I was struck by how keen he was to come to the event. I mentioned it in passing to him and he was really keen to come along. It is not often that I can be persuaded to go back into work on a Saturday without some sort of major incident being in place. He and clearly many of those present were absolutely delighted to be here and particularly to see his nationality and national flag represented in the displays here. I thought it was a really great event. It was a true celebration of Europe and the European nationalities that make up a large part of the diversity of our city.

Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

Excuse me. Can I have a question?

Photo of Fiona Twycross Fiona Twycross Labour

I do have a question ‑‑

Photo of Fiona Twycross Fiona Twycross Labour

‑‑ and it is around the point that you made, Mr Mayor, about the need to make sure the particular groups, where there are lower levels of applications for settled status and pre-settled status, particularly around those groups, and what more will be done to make sure that groups where there are lower levels of applications are encouraged and given information to apply; for example, around Polish applications.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Firstly, I will just say, Chair, that I was really pleased that we were able to facilitate a date night for Fiona and her husband at City Hall at the We Are All Londoners event.

It is a really important point. There are some members of our community in London who may appear to be harder to reach than other members and so what we are doing is making sure that we go out to them. The groups that we are particularly concerned about are those who are Roma, rough sleepers, disabled people, and non-EU nationals reliant on EU family. We have supported some outreach work from various projects in London that know those communities best. Some of these communities will not access the online services that we have and so we are doing more of that.

The thing that causes me alarm is that we had one of the most senior members of the Government last week saying that if EU citizens have not signed up for secured status by the end of next year, they could be deported. That is causing real alarm amongst Londoners - and these are Londoners, by the way - who are EU citizens. That is why we are redoubling our efforts to reach them. My worry is that many of the people may disappear. They may be worried about being deported. They may misunderstand what was said. Any advice or assistance that you have or others have I am more than happy to hear.

Photo of Fiona Twycross Fiona Twycross Labour

You mentioned the Home Office Minister [Rt Hon] Brandon Lewis’s [CBE MP] comments about deporting EU citizens who have not applied for pre-settled or settled status before the deadline. Are you concerned that the Government has not learned from the Windrush scandal?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Absolutely. Look, I still meet now people who were affected by the Windrush scandal and it was a scandal and a disgrace, but my point is this. Put aside the Windrush scandal. We know that the Home Office, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and the authorities are not the most efficient in the world and, if just one in ten has not registered for whatever reason, in London that is more than 100,000. Around the country it is more than 330,000. These are, for all intents and purposes, Londoners and Britons. It is really important, before the Government is talking about draconian consequences, to be confident that there are systems in place to do it efficiently and properly. I am not sure that they are spending enough time educating the public and making them aware. The fact that you cannot, for example, register using an iPhone already reduces the number of people who have a computer and can register. The Government has to do much more to get the registration rates much higher, bearing in mind that we now know the consequences of not being registered.

Photo of Fiona Twycross Fiona Twycross Labour

Thank you. Would you pass on thanks to all these concerned with the work in this area?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I will make sure I do. Thank you. Thanks for your kind comments. Thank you.