1/ What does “already living here” mean? What is the deadline? Does the Government intend to allow more EU citizens to arrive here before the deadline is set at some date in the distant future? It does make this open to abuse by later EU arrivals seeking to settle. The quicker your Government makes that announcement, the less abuse there would be.
2/ Just allowing EU citizens to carry on undergoing the complex procedure of applying for permanent residence and digging up all details of their travel, home addresses and details of employment over the past 5 or so years is not only especially onerous for the applicants and their families but, at the present rate that such applications are processed by the Home Office, it could take nearly 20 years to be implemented fully for all those eligible. Also these applications are more likely to be rejected by the Home Office because of the difficulty of obtaining the right information, especially for the self-employed
3/ Your proposal does not secure the rights of those who are not yet eligible for permanent residence as they have been here less than 5 years, and seriously undermines the rights of those who have been here legally under Treaty rules for less than 3 years, as their eligibility would still remain uncertain after the supposed 2 year negotiation period is over
4/ The status of permanent residence is an EU concept and will in any case be likely to be formally substituted by the UK’s “indefinite leave to remain” status and that change could involve further bureaucracy
5/ The future status of EU citizens, even with “permanent residence”, are likely to be disenfranchised of their eligibility to participate in local government elections as soon as the EU negotiations are completed, despite the fact that they pay council tax and national insurance
6/ UK employers are still finding it difficult to plan long term with their investment and employment policies because of uncertainty over the status of their current and future EU employees
7/ The dragged-out procedure for granting permanent residence or other equivalent means of ensuring the right to stay is not likely to impress other EU countries when negotiations begin after March 2017 and could be applied in the same way to UK citizens in those countries
8/ In the meantime criminal elements from the EU and those working illegally without payment of taxes would continue to live here over the 2 year negotiating period on the same status as law abiding EU citizens
9/ This elongated procedure does not make clear to perpetrators of hate crime that EU citizens currently here have a right to stay and work here, and their children have a right to attend school here.
In my opinion most of these issues can be resolved by a resolute and early decision before March 2017 to create a new legal status open to all EU citizens currently living here under Treaty rules (with some similarity to the status of Maltese citizens). A possible name for it could be “Maastricht Treaty status”. Eligibility for this status and issuing of the appropriate new ID could be handled by local government based on the electoral and social services records as well as registered births and marriages already in their possession, but enhanced by relevant records from the Home Office and DWP and financed from a special central reserve fund at the Home Office. In my view the advantages would be as follows:
1/ The deadline for eligibility can be set immediately as soon as the announcement is made. This would prevent a later surge of EU citizens to this country.
2/ Eligibility can be established very quickly by local government and will not require the complex procedures required by the Home Office for acquiring permanent residence. IDs can be issued with same speed as local bus passes.
3/ The new Status encompasses all EU citizens currently here as long as they have national insurance numbers and have not abused welfare payments or been guilty of criminal offences either here or in their country of origin. It will ease the deportation of EU criminals with no right of return.
4/ The new status would be the same as the current EU status under permanent residence but with the added right to continue to participate in local elections
5/ UK employers will be able to commence their medium and long-term planning on investment and recruitment
6/ This will have a positive effect on the EU negotiations once they begin and will make it much more likely that EU countries will reciprocate with similar rights for UK citizens abroad.
7/ Their special status protects EU citizens from intimidation by perpetrators of hate crime
8/ This is a one off right applicable only to citizens currently here from the current EU countries, including Croatia, but would not apply to citizens of any new member countries of the EU.
I would like to thank you for allowing me to make my views known and I hope that you will have the opportunity to discuss these issues with your colleagues on the Cabinet and your Civil Servants. I am also forwarding a similar letter to the Chairman of Parliamentary Select Committee on Brexit and a copy to my local MP – Dr Rupa Huq.
Thursday, 29 December 2016
Saturday, 3 December 2016
Dear Members of Parliament, “Our ties with Poland are rooted deeply in our shared history” the Prime Minister said last week. Poland and the UK have faced external threats together since before the Second World War, and again now through NATO. Polish workers were made to feel especially welcome here when Poland joined the EU in 2004. In fact, they were encouraged to come and work here as a dynamic younger work force which would tackle the skills shortage, re-energize the British economy and rejuvenate the ageing population. Poles have continued to maintain their highly motivated work ethic, set up more than 87,000 businesses and contributed generously to the UK exchequer. After the EU referendum on June 23rd, Polish and other EU workers and their families discovered that their presence in the UK was no longer welcomed. Most Leave campaigners during the referendum campaign had promised that the status of EU nationals currently here would be safe. Yet in the aftermath of the referendum Poles in the UK found themselves open to abuse and on occasions to actual physical attacks from UK citizens who interpreted the referendum result as a call for all EU foreign workers to depart. More than 180,000 Polish children in the UK were left deeply unsettled over their future. There were ugly incidents of hate crime including serious physical assaults, arson and even murder, as well as low level intimidation in public and online. While the UK Government has said no EU nationals should be expelled they have made this conditional on EU acquiescence. The International Trade Secretary has even referred to EU nationals as being a “key card” in the negotiations lasting over the next 3 years. It is shameful that thousands of Polish children should be treated by the UK government as hostages in a diplomatic poker game. The UK government must declare unequivocally now that Polish and other EU citizens currently here under EU treaty rules, as well as their dependants, will be allowed to stay and work in this country. It is to the advantage of the United Kingdom to make such a declaration promptly because: 1/ The UK should honour its commitment to those who arrived here legally under EU legislation and have contributed to the UK economy and society. 2/ UK companies need a stable environment to plan their future investment and recruitment policies 3/ A positive tone will be set for starting future negotiations with the EU when Article 50 is invoked. 4/ There is less likelihood of a late “surge” of EU nationals once a clear demarcation date is set. 5/ Polish entrepreneurs and Polish families will not feel pressurized to leave the UK early. 6/ Perpetrators of hate crimes will be discouraged from intimidating Polish and other EU citizens. Krystyna Bell, cultural coordinator, Andrzej Błoński, architect in private practice, Alina Callender, retired civil servant , Piotr Chłapowski, architect in private practice, Dr Ryszard Chmielowiec, retired engineer, Andrzej Fόrmaniak, chartered engineer, Piotr Fudakowski, feature film producer, Danuta Hart, headmistress, Maria Horbaczewska, retired city banker, Major Otton Hulacki, retired printer, WWII veteran, Jan Jarzembowski, historian, Joanna Kańska, actor; Stefan Kasprzyk, former Mayor of Islington, Wanda Kościa, documentary film maker, Jakub Krupa, press agency journalist, Dr Olgierd Lalko, community leader, Ludomir Lasocki, former adviser to Polish Finance Minister, Jan Ledόchowski, financial adviser, film-maker, Rula Lenska, actor, Agnieszka Major, founder of Polish Psychologist Association, Director, Antah Ocean Ltd, Joanna Młudzińska, project manager, Dr Jan Mokrzycki, ex Chair of Federation of Poles in GB, Wiktor Moszczyński, ex Ealing Councillor, author, Bartłomiej Nowak, community centre manager, Tad Ostrowski, Director, Artington Legal, Irma Pietroń, solicitor, Romana Pizon, Bradford community leader, Tad Potworowski, Chartered Accountant, Krzysztof Ruszczyński, Director, Credit Union, Jolanta Sabbat, Health Policy Consultant, Janusz Sikora-Sikorski, Chair, Relief Society for Poles & Janusz and Wanda Prawdzic Szlaski Charitable Trust, former chair of the Polish Catholic Mission in England & Wales, Filip Slipaczek, Chartered Financial Planner & Patron of Faith Matters, Piotr Sowiński, veterinary surgeon, , Dr Marek Stella-Sawicki MBE, military historian, Magda Szkuta, librarian curator, Robert Wiśniowski, Chartered Accountant, A E P Zaleski, solicitor, Andrzej Zakrzewski, chartered engineer, Krzysztof Zarębski, Management Consultant, Dr Marian Zastawny, Chair Association of Polish Engineers, Jan Zylinski, former London Mayoral candidate. Contact address: Wiktor Moszczyński, Convenor, A Fair Deal for Poles in the UK, 48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW, Tel 07786471833 To be published in The House" magazine 9th December 2016
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
A Fair Deal for Poles in UK – Open Letter to Prime Minister Theresa May from UK citizens of Polish origin
13th October 2016 Dear Prime Minister. There is a long tradition of warm Polish-British relations starting with the Polish soldiers who settled here after the 1830 rebellion against Russia, and including prominent Poles in England such as Marie Curie and Joseph Conrad and the Polish soldiers, sailors and airmen, including the legendary 303 Squadron, who served under British command in the Second World War. Those close ties extend between the two countries in a common NATO strategy and in joint active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. These experiences contributed to the special welcome given to Polish workers in the UK after 2004 when Poland joined the EU. According to the first quarter of 2016 ONS statistics there are at present 984,000 Polish nationals living in the UK. They are the largest national grouping out of the 2.9 million EU citizens currently residing here. 75.4% of Poles in the UK are of working age (the majority aged between 20 and 39) and 87% of them are employed and paying taxes. Less than 2% are pensioners. A further 189,000 (19.2%) are children below the age of 15 who see the UK as their home. The majority of them arrived here from 2004 onwards after the British Government opened up the UK labour market to Polish workers and other EU nationals in order to bring in a dynamic younger work force which would tackle the skills shortage, re-energize the British economy and rejuvenate the ageing population. The Poles have continued to maintain their highly motivated work ethic, set up more than 87,000 businesses and contributed generously to the UK exchequer. They have also, with time, set up their own families here and, with over 22,000 babies now being born each year to Polish mothers, they have helped to revert the UK’s falling birth rate. Following the result of the EU referendum on June 23rd, Polish workers and their families woke up to the shock awareness that their presence in the UK was no longer so welcoming. Most Leave campaigners during the referendum campaign had assured them that the status of EU nationals currently here would be safe. Yet in the aftermath of the referendum Poles found themselves open to abuse and on many occasions to actual physical attacks from UK citizens who interpreted the referendum result as a call for all EU foreign workers to depart. Traumatized Polish schoolchildren were bewildered by their fellow pupils asking them when they were leaving this country. There were ugly incidents of hate crime including serious physical assaults and arson attacks in towns such as Leeds, Spalding, Lancaster and Plymouth, and even a tragic death in Harlow, as well as instances of graffiti vandalism and intimidating abuse in public places throughout the UK. Despite the overwhelming expressions of sympathy and support from the British public at large for victims of such abuse these incidents continue. The Government have stated several times that the EU nationals should not be expelled. Yet at the same time government ministers have called for indigenization of the work force in the NHS, in agriculture and in industry, referred to the need for Polish construction workers to obtain visas, threatened to impose a requirement for British businesses to list all their foreign employees and have consistently refused to guarantee the right to stay for Poles and other EU nationals until all 27 EU countries have given similar guarantees for UK nationals living abroad. The International Trade Secretary has even referred to EU nationals as being a “key card” in the negotiations lasting over the next 3 years. In light of this Polish families remain very concerned about their future here. This procrastination antagonizes the EU countries, many of whose governments, such as those of France, Spain and Portugal, have already offered to retain residential rights for UK citizens. The UK government cannot blame EU governments for this uncertainty. It was the British people who chose to leave the EU and not the other way around, so the onus is on the British government to act first. It is shameful that Polish children who considered the UK their home should be treated by the UK government as hostages in long term negotiations with the EU. We urge the UK government to declare unequivocally now that Polish citizens here legally under EU treaty rules, as well as their dependants, will be allowed to stay and work in this country, apply for indefinite leave to remain, and, if they wish, for UK citizenship, and that every effort be made for police and local government to record all incidents of xenophobia and racism, especially in relation to Polish and other EU citizens. It is to the advantage for the UK government to make such a declaration promptly because: 1/ It is the duty of the UK government to honour its commitment to those who arrived here legally under EU legislation with which the UK had voluntarily acquiesced 2/ It will give UK companies a more stable environment in which to plan their future investments and recruitment policies 3/ It will set a positive tone for starting future negotiations with the EU after Article 50 is invoked 4/ By setting a deadline arrival date now for EU citizens already in the UK, it will prevent a feared late surge of EU nationals seeking to find permanent residence here 5/ It will reassure Polish families and Polish businesses over their future in this country and prevent an unnecessary early exit of Polish entrepreneurs and skilled workers from the UK 6/ It will give clear notice to all perpetrators of hate crimes in UK that Polish workers and their families have a right to stay in the UK. Signed: Krystyna Bell, cultural coordinator Andrzej Błoński, architect in private practice Alina Callender, retired civil servant Piotr Chłapowski, architect Andrzej Fόrmaniak, chartered engineer Danuta Hart, headmistress Maria Horbaczewska, retired city banker Stefan Kasprzyk, former Mayor of Islington Joanna Kańska, actor Dr Olgierd Lalko, community leader Ludomir Lasocki, former adviser to Polish Finance Minister Jan Ledόchowski, financial adviser, film-maker Rula Lenska, actor Joanna Młudzińska, project manager Jan Mokrzycki, former Chair of Federation of Poles in GB Wiktor Moszczyński, ex Ealing Councillor, author Bartłomiej Nowak, community centre manager Irma Pietroń, retired solicitor Romana Pizon, Bradford community leader Jolanta Sabbat, Health Policy Consultant Dr Marek Stella-Sawicki MBE, military historian Magda Szkuta, librarian curator Andrew Zaleski, solicitor Andrzej Zakrzewski, chartered engineer Prince Jan Zylinski, ex London Mayoral candidate Contact address: Wiktor Moszczyński, Convenor, A Fair Deal for Poles in the UK, 48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW, Tel 07786471833
Sunday, 9 October 2016
Justice for UK Poles There is a long tradition of warm Polish-British relations going back to the Polish revolutionaries who settled here after the 1830 revolt against Russia, to prominent Poles in England such as Marie Curie and Joseph Conrad, to the heroic role of Polish soldiers, sailors and airmen, including the legendary 303 Squadron, serving under British command in the Second World War and to the close ties between the two countries in NATO strategy and in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of which contributed to the special welcome for Polish workers in the UK after 2004 when Poland joined the EU. According to the first quarter ONS statistics for 2016 there are currently 984,000 Polish nationals living in the UK. They are the largest national grouping of the 2.9 million EU citizens currently residing here. 75.4% of Poles in the UK are of working age (the majority aged between 20 and 39) and 87% of them are employed and paying taxes. Less than 2% are pensioners. A further 189,000 (19.2%) are children below the age of 15 who see the UK as their home. The majority of them arrived here from 2004 onwards after the British government opened up the UK labour market to Polish workers and other EU nationals in order to bring in a dynamic younger work force which would tackle the skills shortage, re-energize the British economy and rejuvenate the ageing population. The Poles have continued to maintain a highly motivated work ethic, set up more than 87,000 businesses and contributed generously to the UK exchequer. They have also, with time, set up their own families here and, with over 22,000 babies now born each year to Polish mothers, they have helped to revert the UK’s falling birth rate. Following the result of the EU referendum on June 23rd, Polish workers and their families woke up to the shock awareness that their presence in the UK was no longer so welcoming. Although most Leave campaigners during the referendum campaign had assured them that the status of EU nationals currently here would be safe, in the aftermath of the referendum they found themselves open to abuse and on many occasions to actual physical attacks from UK citizens who interpreted the referendum result as a call for all EU foreign workers to depart. Traumatized Polish schoolchildren were bewildered by their fellow pupils asking them when they were leaving this country. There were for instance ugly incidents included serious physical assaults and arson tickets in Leeds, Spalding, Plymouth and even a death in Harlow, as well as graffiti vandalism and insulting comments in public places throughout the UK. The Government have stated that the EU nationals should not be expelled but government ministers have called for indigenization of the work force in the NHS, in agriculture and in industry, referred to the need for Polish construction workers to obtain visas, threatened to impose a requirement for British businesses to list all their foreign employees and have consistently refused to guarantee the right to stay for Poles and other EU nationals until all 27 EU countries have given similar guarantees for UK nationals living abroad. The International Trade Secretary has even referred to EU nationals as being a “key card” in the negotiations lasting over the next 3 years. It is shameful that Polish children should be treated by the UK government as hostages in long term negotiations with the EU. We urge the UK government to declare unequivocally now that Polish citizens here legally under EU treaty rules as well as their dependants will be allowed to stay and work in this country, apply for indefinite leave to remain, and, if they wish, for UK citizenship, and that every effort be made for police and local government to record all incidents of xenophobia and racism, especially in relation to EU citizens. It is to the advantage for the UK government to make such a declaration promptly because: 1/ It is the duty of the UK government to honour its commitment to those who arrived here legally under EU legislation that had been approved by the UK’s membership of the EU 2/ It will be set the right tone for a more positive start to the future negotiations with the EU after the critical responses in the EU to the British Government’s anti-immigrant declarations at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham 3/ By setting a deadline date for arrival in the UK it will prevent a late surge of EU nationals seeking to arrive here in order to be assured of the right to stay in the 4/ It will reassure Polish families and Polish businesses over their future in this country and prevent an unnecessary early departure for Polish entrepreneurs and skilled workers from the UK 5/ It will give clear notice to all xenophobic and racist elements in the UK that Polish workers and their families cannot be intimidated into leaving the country. Wiktor Moszczynski Convenor, Justice for Poles in the UK 48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW Tel 07786471833
Thursday, 6 October 2016
Letter to Editor of The Daily Telegraph. From Wiktor Moszczynski, 48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW tel 07786471833 Dear Sir, Now that Theresa May has nailed her colours so emphatically to the mast on Brexit ("It is wrong to sneer at patriotism" 04/10/2016) and the process of indigenisation of British industry and the NHS is in full swing perhaps the Government should bite the bullet and pay its debt of honour to those 2.9 million EU citizens in this country who have worked or settled here and contributed so much to the British economy. It is breathtakingly cynical for the Trade Secretary to proudly display these people as a "key card" in a 3 year poker game with EU diplomats when it is the UK that has chosen to leave the EU and not the other round. I am thinking, in particular, of the 186,000 Polish children in the UK, a potential great asset to Britain with its current alarmingly low birth rate, suddenly feeling alienated towards the country they were expecting to live in. Yours faithfully, Wiktor Moszczynski
Friday, 29 July 2016
This is copy of my letter to the "New European" which for some reason did not get printed. I know its contents are contentious but it still deserves to see the light of day.
Monday, 25 July 2016
Sunday, 17 July 2016
The Polish presence in this country was first felt before we even settled here. Our airmen participated in the Battle of Britain, our sailors sank U-boats in the North Atlantic, our paratroopers dropped from the skies at Arnhem, our soldiers fought along with British soldiers in Norway and France, and Egypt and Italy. Our parents and grandparents, denied a safe homeland in Communist Poland, settled here after the War while we attended school here, speaking Polish at home and English in the class room, while our classmates tried in vain to pronounce our difficult surnames. We fitted easily into the economic and social landscape of Britain but also kept our separate identity inside our Polish institutions such as the Polish Social and Cultural Centre in King Street which was set up in the 1970s to house our Polish library, Polish theatre, the Polish Education Society and many other Polish institutions, but it has also been a centre for the community at large, including Hammersmith & Fulham Council, which for many years rented out office space in our building. New waves and generations of Poles have moved into the UK since the 1980s, the largest after 2004 when Poland joined the European Union. Poles have been a much more visible presence in the last 10 years with Polish becoming the second most commonly used language at home in the UK, Polish shops and businesses sprouting up everywhere, and mass attendance at more than 100 Polish parish churches throughout the UK. There are some 30,000 Polish-speaking children in London schools alone and 97,000 Polish citizens on the London electoral register. Largely as UK taxpayers, we contribute to the prosperity of Hammersmith and of London and integrate in to the economic and social fabric of this country though we still celebrate our distinctive local culture, our food and our special historic Anglo-Polish relationship from during the War. Our Polish centre in Hammersmith still invites all that is best not only in Polish culture and also in the rich variety of culture and social life of Hammersmith as a whole. Unfortunately, on the morning of June 25,, less than 48 hours after the referendum vote, the building invited something altogether different, an obscene racist message scrawled across its front entrance. This was something our building had never experienced before since it was built in 1976. Though within hours it was washed off by our vigilant staff, it reappeared in every British newspaper, every news channel, not only here, but abroad, including in Poland. Seeing the outrageous slogan reproduced was a painful shock for all Poles here, but also for local residents and schoolchildren in Hammersmith, for our councillors and our MP who raised the matter in Parliament, and even for the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, whose condemnation of this desecration of our centre was repeated in all the media. Of course what happened to us was not an isolated incident. It was mirrored by various incidents, some verbal, some physical, throughout the length and breadth of this country. The Brexit vote seemed to have released in some Leave voters a sense of empowerment to insult and intimidate and to give expression to their feral prejudices and fear of foreigners, which they had suppressed until now. For of course we must recognize the incident at our Polish Centre as not just an attack on Poles in this country, but an attack on all ethnic and religious minorities. The perpetrators of such an outrage, hate all of us. They may cherry-pick this or that minority, today the Poles or Romanians, before it was the Somalis, or the Indians, or Jamaicans, or the Jews, but they hate and fear us all. And the important lesson here is that our minorities should stand together and not join in the baiting of this or that minority, this or that group of immigrants. Don’t we know of members from some minorities make disparaging comments in the past about other minorities and wishing them to be deported, and vice versa? Friends, whatever our nationality, or race or religion, we must not let racists and their slogans dictate our language and seek to divide us. We must show each other solidarity whoever is attacked. Dear friends, I cannot thank enough those many many citizens of Hammersmith and beyond who sent us expressions of support after that incident. We remember those schoolchildren posing with pictures on our front door steps. A big thank you also to the police for responding so quickly. For the next 5 days our staff and volunteers, their eyes welling with tears of gratitude, battled with the mountains of flowers and sympathetic cards and gifts of cakes and toys and sushi sent by English friends and admirers to our building. It was very moving and we are all very very grateful for this show of solidarity. And we are similarly grateful for the vote in the House of Commons urging the government to allow all EU citizens currently here and working legally to be allowed to stay with their families, after the Brexit negotiations are finished. It is both a humanitarian and a practical solution, it will ensure our continuous input into Britain’s prosperity, give our communities back the sense of security undermined by the Brexit vote and the incidents that followed it, and it will be a clear message to all racists that their vile expressions of hate are nothing but empty threats. The new British government must make that policy official now. In our unity lies our strength. Or, as in that wonderful word Poland gave to the world 30 years ago – Solidarność. Wiktor Moszczyński, on behalf of Polish Social and Cultural Centre Speech at Ravenscourt Park for the Hammersmith and Fulham Council Unity March. 17th July 2016
Thursday, 23 June 2016
What I predicted a week ago. Really frightening is the vacuum of power. The PM is in power with no moral authority and the Leavers are contradicting each other about the next step as they are not in power themselves and can only speculate but have no common plan. Also Labour too divided to have any influence as their voters outside London have voted to leave. Europe too will be utterly divided too with many in France, Sweden, Denmark and Italy pushing to leave the EU, while Juncker and Merkel still rumble on about ever closer union. Can a more reflective Donald Tusk give some lead when his old Eurocentric vision for central Europe appears dead? UK departure leaves uncertain the next step for those countries outside the euro like Poland being isolated by the euro bloc and the pressure from Polish Europhobes to push Poland out of the obligation to join the euro could trigger an anti-EU referendum that even Kaczynski may fail to stop. Also we must fight now for the rights of Poles actually here over rather than those wanting to come. 30,000 Polish-speaking children in London, more to come, probably twice that in the UK, what are their rights and that of their families in the future going to be? The leading Leavers say Poles will be all right but nobody really knows as the Leavers do not see the logic of what they have done and are not in power. And there will be massive pressure on Poles in East of Eangland and North East to leave. Our task for the future is huge, At least Sadiq Khan should try and defend the London Poles. Tens of thoudands will be determined to stay in UK and will applu for UK citizenship. Will they get it? Many second and third generation Poles in UK will be applying for Polish citizenship to be able to travel around Europe and find work there. Of course Scotland can leave, the Sinn Fein will push for a United Ireland thus causing a bitter even hostile reaction from Protestant mahjoity and the pound will take several weeks to stabilize as the power vacuum continues. The Obama project for UK and Europe is in tatters, Trump and Putin will be happy and China may be happy to see the 500 million strong EU market start to fall part leaving them as the biggest trading block in the future.
Saturday, 30 April 2016
So far Brexit has been seen as a measure that would affect Poles who are only now arriving in the UK or are planning to do so. There appears to be a growing presumption that, actually, Poles residing here already are in no danger. Several times politicians and business supporters of Brexit, such as John Longworth at the public meeting on Brexit organized by the United Poles on April 21 in the Ognisko Club in Kensington have assured Poles residing and working here, that they, and their families, "are safe." Wrong! Of course, in the first years after a negative referendum to leave the EU, it is argued that in theory nothing should change. Prime Minister Cameron would have a certain period in which to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon in order to officially start negotiations with the Union on future legal and economic ties between the EU and the UK. These negotiations should officially take up about two years. The most favourable solution for us Poles in case of Brexit would be a model of relations based the current status of Norway or Switzerland where the United Kingdom would continue to have full access to the duty-free single market of the EU but in this case, the United Kingdom would continue to be open to the free movement of not only capital but also of the work force. It is likely that following a victorious referendum campaign the new anti-European policymakers in the British government would not have agreed to this model of relations, aware that it was mainly spooked hostility of the British electorate to all new immigrants which would have been the deciding factor for supporters of Brexit. Restrictions against new immigrants would come into force only after the conclusion of the negotiations, although the feverish national debate on the subject would begin to be felt soon after the referendum. Panicky employers and frightened local officials would be aware that the mood had changed while hysterical right-wing Conservatives and UKIP members vie with each other in seeking harsher solutions for immigrants in general. We are in unknown territory here as such a new form of agreement with the European Union for a former member of the EU is unprecedented. So the atmosphere in the tabloids and in local and national government would be quite tense for Poles right from the beginning after the vote. Various forms of local discrimination could have started, in health services, job centres, schools, places of employment as the future looks more and more uncertain. We know what in these circumstances would face new Polish visitors after the initial two-year period, once EU arrangements no longer apply. Right of entry would only for restricted to tourists and to students who have an assured place at their university, but not for those looking for work. For those who would have obtained an agreed contract to work in advance would now require an entry visas with their work permit (currently £ 575 for contracted workers under three years and £ 1,151 if their contract exceeds three years). Moreover, they would pay £ 200 a year for health insurance. Tuition fees for Polish students would be elevated to the much higher level of ordinary foreign students. This is all as could be expected. But what about the Poles already resident in the UK who are allegedly "safe"? If you are staying here less than five years and have not yet obtained permanent residence any loss of employment would no longer be cushioned by out of work benefits or any low pay by in work benefits. The national living wage would not apply to you once your current job is finished. Theoretically there may even be no guarantee of child benefit, and of course it goes without saying that a benefit for a child who is resident in Poland would be no longer be considered. If the child was not born here he or she would not even be sure of a guaranteed place in the local school. Besides Polish citizens would lose their right to vote in local elections even though they pay council tax, and any travel between Poland and the UK, even for Christmas or for dental treatment, would require a Polish passport, and no longer an ID. If a Pole were to work illegally here or have some minor legal infringement on their record in Poland or the UK they could be stopped at the border and even face permanent expulsion, regardless of whether they have a family here or not. Poles that have been here less than 5 years would be subject to the same conditions as non-EU workers. If already living here, any permit for a new job in the UK would have to be approved by the Home Office and the current cost of a new visa for a 3-year contract for someone already legally in the UK would be £ 664. They would again be subject to the above-mentioned health insurance of £200 per year, regardless of whether they pay National Insurance contribution in this country already. If self-employed you need to be aware that current employees from countries outside the EU have had the right to work only if their earnings are at least £18,600 per year. In April this year the minimum income level was increased to £ 35,000. How many Poles could boast that they get such a salary? Perhaps Poles and other EU nationals here without permanent residence would find ways to alleviate these rules through various appeals based on their human rights, but ultimately all will be subject to what the British government negotiates with the Union. Following a complete break without the right to free movement of labour, bilateral working arrangements with EU countries could be established. Thus, for example, the French or Germans could be treated differently than, say, Poles and Romanians? Here, much will depend on the effectiveness of Polish diplomacy, but that Polish consulates will already be overwhelmed defending the rights of individual Polish families wrong-footed by the new circumstances. Yet even those who already have permanent residence after five years, or even have British citizenship after six years of residence, would still not be free from problems arising from Brexit. The above-mentioned income level of £35,000 would also apply, for example, as the lowest income ceiling for a British citizen seeking to reunite permanently with his wife or child living in Poland. Furthermore to invite your grandmother to look after your children for a longer period would require an official written invitation approved by the Home Office. In the case of access to social benefits, these would be withdrawn if, for family reasons, such a British citizen should wish to live in Poland for a certain period. Besides, even for those British citizens by birth from the post-war Polish immigration would feel the effects of Brexit should they want to live their last years in Poland, and find that their shrinking British pension is no longer index-linked. Am I painting the picture in excessively black colours? Well of course it may never happen. The British may reject Brexit altogether in the referendum in June. Or they may still, after deciding to leave the EU, opt to continue, like Norway and Iceland, within the single market thus largely accepting the terms of free movement of labour, though I think that particular option as being unlikely. Otherwise we are in unmarked territory and anything can be decided dependent on the volatility of public opinion and an unsteady divided government. That is why such a dark scenario is still possible and necessary to consider. It cannot be ruled out. That is why so many Poles and other EU nationals are agreeing with me and are applying in ever larger amounts for British citizenship. According to the Home Office, their number increased by 40% in the last twelve months. Red Squirrel, publishers of the text book "Britishness" which prepares candidates for the exam needed to qualify for British nationality, claim that recently the number of their book sale increased from 550 to 2250 a month. Conversely British citizens who want to continue to travel and work around Europe despite Brexit are beginning to submit applications for citizenship of EU countries such as France and Ireland. For the same reason British citizens of Polish origin, many born here as the second generation of the post-war Polish community, are beginning to file for the Polish citizenship they are entitled to and for Polish passports so that they can continue to own property in Poland and travel around Europe as EU citizens. That is why I still cannot understand why so many Poles living here with British citizenship are thinking about voting for Brexit? Poland is desperate to have the UK remain in the Union as a counterbalance to Germany and France and to head the non-euro block of countries. So pro-Brexit Poles in this country seem oblivious to the national interests of their home country and to the rights of their fellow countrymen in the UK. Polish citizens in the UK without British nationality will no longer have the right to vote in the referendum on 23rd June. They can only watch helplessly as the British electorate decides their fate. But at least the 9744 Polish Londoners without British citizenship who are registered to vote in the mayoral election in London and who constitute 1.5% of the entire London electorate, can still do themselves and Poland one last favour. So far, London has been represented by Boris Johnson, the most flamboyant campaigner for Brexit even though London has largely got a pro-EU bias. Johnson’s Conservative successor as candidate for Mayor, Zac Goldsmith, is also unfortunately a supporter of Brexit. Therefore the patriotic Pole who cares about his country has a clear task in this election. The first vote they can give to Prince Jan Zylinski, the Polish independent candidate, but their second vote should go to a candidate who wants London to remain in the Union. They have a choice between the liberal-democrat Caroline Pidgeon, the Green candidate, Sian Berry, or the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan (although, according to polls, Sadiq Khan has the only chance of defeating Goldsmith). Finally, with a pro-European spokesman for London elected as Mayor with Polish votes, Polish citizens in London can feel they have improved their chance of defeating Brexit and retaining their current legal status of being Polish and EU citizens in this country. Wiktor Moszczyński Polish Weekly April 29, 2016
Tuesday, 23 February 2016