The group says it has received “numerous” reports that EU citizens with pre-settled status in the UK are being refused access to Universal Credit, a monthly payment given to needy people in the UK to help with their living costs.
Campaigners say this contravenes the UK’s obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) which was thrashed out between the UK and EU.
The EU settlement scheme was designed to give people their rights under the WA.
Pre-settled status is intended for those do not have five years' continuous residence in the UK. People can apply to change this to settled status once they have five years' continuous residence.
One of the people who contacted the3million, a group set up after the 2016 Referendum which resulted in the UK voting to exit the EU, was an EU musician who lost his job at the end of January.
Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million, said, “COVID-19 meant that he can’t attract new clients. He was rejected for Universal Credit, his account was closed and he is unable to appeal against the decision. He is worried about how he will pay the bills this month as he has no source of income.”
Bohn said, “The UK is not delivering what was agreed under the WA. People aren’t able to get the help they need, including benefits.”
“That is so important in times of crisis like COVID where families are facing great hardship. The UK’s incorrect implementation of the WA potentially leaves thousands of EU citizens destitute, without a safety net. We urge the UK government to remove all bureaucratic hurdles for EU citizens.”
About 1 million EU citizens in the UK currently hold pre-settled status and the group claims “any one of them” could be affected by the UK’s incorrect implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Meanwhile, the UK government has conceded that “limited progress” has been made in “bridging the gaps” between the UK and the EU.
This follows a downbeat assessment of the latest round of talks by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. Speaking on Friday, Barnier effectively accused the UK of running down the clock on the negotiations.
A UK government spokesperson told this website, “Our assessment is that there was some promising convergence in the core areas of a Free Trade Agreement. But we regret that the detail of the EU’s offer on goods trade falls well short of recent precedent in FTAs it has agreed with other sovereign countries.”
“The UK’s incorrect implementation of the WA potentially leaves thousands of EU citizens destitute, without a safety net” Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million
“There are also significant differences of principle in other areas. We now need to move forward in a constructive fashion. The UK remains committed to a deal with an FTA at its core. We look forward to negotiating constructively.”
The next round of talks, which have been severely disrupted by the health crisis, are due on 11 May.
Elsewhere, a newly-published report by the Warsaw Institute, a Polish think tank, says “it is obvious” Brexit will in “some ways” weaken the EU’s security as well as its arms industry and peace-keeping capability.
It concludes, “The biggest downside of the divorce will be the fact that less resources will be available to make up the future peacekeeping/advisory operations run by the EU worldwide.”
“Regardless of the final outcome, the UK’s split from the EU will affect all aspects of this bilateral relationship, including security and defence industry. All existing arrangements and defence cooperation agreements will need to be reassessed, completely changing the defence landscape of Europe.”