We must stop the negative Brexit rhetoric and ensure EU citizens feel welcome in Wales

Picture by Stux

David Rees, Labour AM for Aberavon

In just over a week, our 47-year membership of the European Union will come to an end. Whether you were for Leave or Remain during the referendum campaign, it will undoubtedly be a historic moment for our country.

As Chair of the National Assembly’s External Affairs Committee, my role is to examine what leaving the European Union will mean for Wales and its people. Later today (Wednesday 22 January) I will lead a debate on the floor of the Senedd to present the findings of our report on changes to freedom of movement after Brexit.

This has been a vitally important area of our work. And as our membership comes to an end, it is our fellow citizens from elsewhere in the EU that are foremost in my mind.

There are an estimated 3 million citizens from other EU countries living in the UK with around 80,000 in Wales. Many are our colleagues, neighbours, friends, and in some cases family members, living as part of our communities across the nation. Last year the UK Government launched the EU Settlement Scheme, which requires all citizens from elsewhere in the EU to apply to stay in the UK.

Securing the rights of EU citizens living here must be one of our primary aims. While the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, will enshrine most of the rights of EU citizens in UK law, we need to do more to help EU citizens register to the EU Settlement Scheme.

We found a number of difficulties with the operation of the Scheme, including concerns about low levels of registration in Wales compared to the rest of the UK and low awareness of how and where to access advice and support.

The Scheme, which is operated by the Home Office, is also designed to be “digital by default”. The lack of physical documentation given to those who have registered with the Scheme is a cause for concern, and in the words of House of Lords EU Justice sub-committee, has “clear parallels” with the Windrush scandal.

We all, therefore, need to give reassurance to EU citizens in Wales that their status is permanent. And I will be calling on both governments, employers, and public services to provide that reassurance.

 

Rhetoric

Aside from these practical aspects relating to the future of EU nationals living in Wales, I was struck by a less tangible, but nevertheless important, aspect relating to this work.

This was the message we received directly from EU citizens living in Wales about the toll that negative rhetoric around migration is having on the emotional wellbeing of those affected.

It is for this reason, that when I take my seat in the Senedd later today I will be calling on my fellow Members from across the political spectrum to reflect on the damaging effects that some of the rhetoric and language being used around immigration is having on people.

We have a duty to act on what EU citizens who took part in our focus groups told us about this sense of feeling unwelcome and unwanted in this country, many of whom have lived here for decades.

Today, we must stand together with our friends, and fellow citizens as we turn our minds to building a new relationship with our European neighbours in the months that lie ahead.

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Alwyn J EvansSteve DugganJohn EllisDavid Robertsj humphrys Recent comment authors
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Alwyn J Evans
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Alwyn J Evans

Many people voted for brexit to reduce the number of Europeans in the country. That vote was a vote to act and that must be addressed to their satisfaction. Trying to silence them will not deal with it. Now is time for rhetoric and time to hear everyones voice, however much disagreement their is with each others beliefs. A “shut up you sound like a bigot” attitude will not fix anything, it will just lead to a greater decline of trust in our governance and politicians.

Steve Duggan
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Steve Duggan

This isn’t about trust in our politicians it’s about people’s lives, how they are treated – and they have been treated badly since debacle began. The imagined ‘swamping’ by people from the EU, by the press in particularly, has been wrong, inaccurate and pretty disgusting. Those who perpetrated it should hold their heads in shame. Wales did not vote for this bigotry no matter what you say. The country should show openess and tolerance not fall into the trap set by hardline, xenophobic brexiteers.

Alwyn J Evans
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Alwyn J Evans

The “Shut up, you’re wrong, stop being horrible and start being nice” strategy never works.

Steve Duggan
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Steve Duggan

It has nothing to do with being wrong or right – treat others how you yourself expect to be treated.

Alwyn J Evans
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Alwyn J Evans

I listen to others, no matter how much I disagree, or however clumsy their language maybe. I listen because rhetoric is important as it’s a reflection of the reality of another’s existence. Denying rhetoric, is an acceptance that someone’s existence is less than, they are other than and thats dehumanising.

Carole Anderson
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Carole Anderson

I wish people would stop and think what it must be like to feel unwelcome in their home. I was born in the UK and don’t feel welcome anymore. Many others who have been here for most of their lives feel hounded out by a minority of people. When Brexit goes ahead who is going to do the jobs of Drs, nurses, other health and social care workers? There aren’t enough qualified people in the UK to take their place. So what will the government do? It will bring in people from outside the EU. Brexit will fail to control… Read more »

John Ellis
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John Ellis

‘So what will the government do? It will bring in people from outside the EU.’ I think that’s likely to be the case, and indeed the new Westminster government has already given some indication that it’s what they’re envisaging. However, the impression I’ve gathered over the years from folk of a Brexity tendency is that their concerns around inward migration weren’t so much focused on migration from the EU – Romanians and Poles being a possible exception – but rather on inward migration from Asia and, to a smaller extent because the numbers recently have been rather less, from Africa… Read more »

j humphrys
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j humphrys

I think you are correct. Say something simple. Repeat and repeat. Cummings won.
Reason is a very good tool, but Fear is far more potent. That’s the bod in the street taken care of.
So the real reason for Brexit? “The UK’s tax haven Network is , by far, the world’s biggest” -Tax Justice Network.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

That’s pretty much how I see it too.

Alwyn J Evans
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Alwyn J Evans

There will be a hundred thousand Africans incoming to the uk within ten years. Health boards are already recruiting. All those new nurses promised by the Tories will be mostly african/Indian graduates.

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

I can see the humanitaian motive behind Mr. Rees’s proposal, and that’s greatly to his credit, but it won’t be popular outside Cathays and Canton.

David Roberts
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David Roberts

Good to my local AM @DavidReesAM writing for Nation Cymru…..hopefully will see more AM’s doing the same…..