Polish Londoner

These are the thoughts and moods of a born Londoner who is proud of his Polish roots.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Defend Polish democracy but not with sanctions

Letter to The Editor of "The Observer"

Dear Sir,

Your editorial (23.7.17) is right to highlight the danger of “Poland’s flight from democracy” but your readers should not be under the illusion that Poland has no democratic traditions. The multi-ethnic Polish-Lithuanian Republic, which saw itself as a continuation of the Roman Republic, had been a bastion for parliamentary democracy, religious tolerance and humanism in the XVth and XVIth centuries. These ideas re-emerged in Poland’s national revival at the end of the XVIIIth century when it voted itself Europe’s first liberal constitution. In its struggle to reclaim its independence in the following two centuries it did so under the banner of “Your Freedom and Ours”. It was Poland that produced one of the most celebrated and successful peaceful civic resistance movements in the Solidarity Union led by the iconic Lech Wałęsa, after which it was able to restore parliamentary democratic rule and a vibrant economy which over the next 25 years successfully rode out the recession and was a model for developing nations.

Of course, the Third Republic was not a perfect institution and many did not share in its wealth. Spooked by regional inequality, unresolved retribution for its Communist past, the refugee crisis and the tragic plane crash in 2010 which killed President Kaczynski and a large slice of Poland’s military and political leaders, Polish society underwent a similar populist crisis to that of the Trump election victory and the Brexit referendum, and at one stage threatened us with a victory for extremist parties in France, Holland, Italy and Austria. Robust national democratic institutions and a continuous democratic tradition in those countries prevented a total subversion of democracy. It could still do the same in Poland, even though its current democratic institutions are less than one generation old.

Western Europe and the EU institutions are right to sound the alarm and to support the democratic opposition, but actual economic sanctions against Poland would be counter-productive as they would increase the current Polish paranoia and bind the majority of the electorate closer to the ruling party. It would be more productive to give specific moral and even material support to independent Polish institutions such as OKO Press that monitor transgressions of the law and ensure consistent and unbiased coverage of events in Poland.

Polish society, which voted in the current authoritarian government in 2015, must resolve the current crisis in Poland with its own resources.
Wiktor Moszczynski

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Visit to DExEU and Home Office 23/6/17 - email to UK MPs and Polish Euro-MPs

Dear Friends,

Our joint organizations the3million (representing EU citizens here) and BritsinEurope (representing UK citizens in EU) had a meeting this morning with officials from DExEU and the Home Office in advance of the Government position paper to be presented in the House of Commons on Monday.

We were presented with the following paper:

"PM offers certainty to EU citizens

The Prime Minister tonight set out details of the rights and status EU citizens in the U.K. will enjoy after Brexit - vowing to give them reassurance, and to make them a priority in negotiations.

Theresa May told EU leaders she wanted to provide as much certainty as possible to the three million EU citizens currently living in Britain as she outlined the fair deal the U.K. intends to offer.

Reiterating that she wanted to reach a reciprocal settlement for EU citizens in Britain and UK nationals living in Europe as quickly as possible, the PM told fellow EU leaders her aim is to provide EU citizens in the UK with:

- Certainty: with a clear commitment that no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave the country at the point that the UK leaves the EU, and all EU citizens lawfully here at the point the UK leaves will have the opportunity to regularise their status to remain in the country. The PM told leaders that the UK does not want anyone here to have to leave, nor does it want families to be split up;

- The opportunity to achieve settled status: any EU citizen in the UK with five years residence, at a specified date no earlier than the trigger of Article 50, and no later than the UK’s exit from the EU, will be granted UK settled status. We will be aiming to treat them as if they were UK citizens for healthcare, education, benefits and pensions. Any EU citizens with less than five years residence who arrive before the cut off date will be given time to stay until they have the five years of residence to obtain UK settled status;

- A specified cut-off date no earlier than the trigger of Article 50, and no later than the UK’s exit from the EU. While the specific date will be the subject of discussion, the PM made clear that all EU citizens currently here will have their rights protected under EU law until the date we leave the EU;

- A grace period: the length of this period is still to be determined but expected to be up to two years - to allow people to regularise their status. No one will face a cliff edge. So all EU citizens either here today or arriving before we leave the EU will have the opportunity to regularise their status under new rules;

- Streamlined administration: the PM signalled that the administration of this system would be as streamlined as possible – with more details to be set out next week – using digital tools to register people in a light touch way.

Finally, the PM reiterated that reciprocity was, of course, vital, and that both sides should seek to agree terms and give certainty as early as possible in the talks.

Taken together, the PM said the UK’s position represented a fair and serious offer – and one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives, and contributing so much to our society.

The full paper will be laid before Parliament next week.

It was explained to us that the final details would appear in the position paper Monday afternoon which the3million delegation will see at lunchtime and Parliament in the afternoon.
We pointed out that it would have been more fruitful if the Government had prepared such a position paper several months ago when they could still have retained some control of the agenda on issues that concerned them such as controlling a late surge of EU arrivals. Now the Government will find they are too late to regain the initiative.
We also criticized the comments about wanting reciprocity from EU when the EU position has already ensured reciprocity and with a much more ambitious project that the UK.
We also commented how little the Government had actually done for UK citizens abroad, except to use them (and us) as a bargaining chip. We particularly condemned a proposal that the children of UK citizens abroad would not be eligible for UK citizenship if they were not to spend part of their childhood in the UK.
We noted the positive points on which the offer was based seeing the so-called "settled status" as indefinite leave to remain with some improvements because of our former EU status.
We appreciated that the DExEU and Home Office wanted to continue a dialogue with us at various stages on an ongoing process during the negotiations and were pleased to be advised that the final agreement will have an international treaty status.
We were told that the so-called grace period would be for the benefit of both EU citizens here before the cut off point and those after, giving all of them the chance to make up the 5 year period over time.
All will have to register on a simpler online format over a 2 year period between now and March 2019, and that includes those already with permanent residence. However we pointed out that we thought 2 years would not be an adequate period. I reminded them of my previous arguments for letting local authorities use their records in order to initiate registration with their residents and was told that some element of this would be taking place.
However when we asked for details on a number of issues we were advised that the final version to be revealed on Monday will cover all of the points our delegations raised.

These included the eligibility for settled status to:
1/ Those on low wages, and especially carers, whose level of income does not make them eligible for permanent residence at present.
2/ The future of using WRS as a reason to hamper permanent residence now and take away British citizenship granted to British-born children of Polish origin 5 years ago, even though WRS was discontinued in 2011
3/ those without comprehensive sickness insurance
4/ those not currently in the country because working or studying abroad after a stay in the UK
5/ non-EU relatives of EU citizens
6/ EU citizens who invest in the UK but do not have regular extended residence here
7/ the homeless who have worked here for a number of years earlier

We also asked if this settled status included
1/ Paying UK level fees for higher education
2/ voting rights in local elections
3/ recognition of EU university qualifications
4/ being inherited by children of settled status residents not yet born
5/ possibility to apply for Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment regardless of any pension paid out by EU country
6/ right to move and work freely between UK and EU countries
7/ right of equal treatment at work and in job applications
8/ right to use EHIC card
9/ right of membership of UK trade union

Apart from that we also raised the issue of the cut off point and the need for EU and UK to ringfence any agreement on citizenship and implement this into UK and EU law this year.

On all these matters we were assured that the the Monday position paper would have a view.
It may be worth cross-checking the final version of Monday and raise issues where a satisfactory answer has not been given.
We understand that the UK government rejected the notion of the European Court of Justice having jurisdiction on EU and UK membership in EU but we pointed out that we would have to have considerable reassurance about the content of UK legislation first as we would feel safer under the ECJ because of the blatant misjudgements by the UK government and the Home Office in relation to EU citizens so far.

Hopfully many of these points will be treated adequately in next week's position paper.

Best regards and good luck
Wiktor Moszczynski

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Letter to Editor of i - Glossary on Hard and Soft Brexit

Dear Editor,

I thought your readers may find the use of terms like "hard" and "soft" Brexit, as used by Tory and Labour politicians, somewhat confusing.
So here is a glossary on these terms:

1/ Hard Brexit - We leave single market and customs union singing and dancing and rely on Word Trade Organization rules for our trade with EU

2/ Soft Brexit - We leave single market and customs union crying and weeping and begging EU to be nice to us and give us access as "partners" rather than "members" of both, provided we allow a few more of those EU foreigners into the country.

Hope that will be helpful to your readers.

Yours faithfully,
Wiktor Moszczynski

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Speech at Hammersmith & Fulham Unity Day

My name is Wiktor Moszczynski and as you can guess from a name like that I am a Londoner.
I am a member of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain and I speak on behalf of the Polish community in West London whose historic roots go back to the Second World War when my parents and others arrived here to fight alongside the British in the struggle against Nazi Germany by land, sea and air, at a time when Poland was Britain’s most steadfast ally from the beginning to the end of the War. They remained here as refugees after the War when Poland and her neighbours were left under Soviet rule and when our community organized themselves around veterans’ organizations, parishes, social centres and Saturday schools, many of which exist to this day. There were influxes of Poles arriving here during the 60s and 70s and 90s but the largest arrival came here following Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004.
Currently there are some 950,00 Polish citizens in the UK, some 170,000 in London alone, but remember that these figures do not cover second and third generation Poles like myself who have had British citizenship from birth. You see our shops, you hire our plumbers, you will be served by Polish waitresses, be helped by Polish carers, hear Polish swear words at building sites, and commute to work with Polish bankers, lawyers and accountants. There are 10,700 Polish citizens eligible to vote in local London elections, of which one and a half thousand are in Hammersmith and 13,000 in neighbouring Ealing. Polish families are a largely integrated factor in the social and cultural fabric of London with a dynamic input into the local economy. There are 32,000 Polish-speaking children in our London schools, of which 503 are in Hammersmith and 4363 in Ealing. Those children see themselves as British as well as Polish, they speak both languages fluently and see themselves as part of London’s future.
You can imagine the shock those children felt on the night of 23rd June last year, following the Brexit referendum, when their world caved in and they felt that they were no longer wanted here. Teachers had to separate many of these Polish children and their other Eastern European classmates and console them, as other children asked them when they were going back to Poland. That was when the front of the Polish Centre in Hammersmith was smeared in graffiti, when Polish families were shouted at for speaking Polish in buses, when Poles were assaulted in race attacks in Yeovil, in St Ives, in Leeds, in Telford, in Lancaster, in Luton and most notably in Harlow where a Polish worker was killed. There were vandalised attacks on houses in Bristol, in Reading in Worcester. There were police reports on arson attacks on Polish homes, abusive messages on a war memorial in Portsmouth and on Polish shops. Police were drawn towards abusive messages on the internet, often between teenagers on the social media, which included at least one case of a Polish schoolgirl in Cornwall committing suicide and of many instances of verbal abuse including one where a patient with a heart condition had to be put on a life-saving machine in Leeds, as well as the famous incident of the anti-Polish laminated cards distributed in Huntingdon.
Of course, in the first 4 months it was not just Poles who suffered this kind of abuse. It happened to many other minorities too in that strange dark frightening period after the referendum when people haunted with the demons of unbridled racism felt that this was the time to let their prejudices run riot, hoping in this way to hound non-British, non-white minorities into frightened silence or even into leaving the country.
I am happy to say that racism did not prevail. Many people in Britain went out of their way to show solidarity with the abused and the victims. After the graffiti incident in the Polish Centre in Hammersmith the building was overwhelmed with people sending flowers, gifts and letters of support, especially from London schoolchildren. Many of those incidents are not being repeated now but racist words can still flare up in road accidents, neighbour disputes. The undercurrent of racism does still rumble on. Unfortunately, much of it is not reported to the police as Poles feel reluctant to present themselves as victims and fear retribution and legal complications.
Let us not just assume that racism exists only in one section of society. We must guard against racism in all communities. Some people feel that expressing contempt for other minorities somehow makes them more British. Well no. It doesn’t. It just makes them more racist. Let us remember that an act of racism against any minority is an act of racism against all of us.
The Brexit negotiations are about to start on Monday week, especially on the issue of EU citizens’ rights. We believe that Poles and other EU citizens should not be bargaining chips in these negotiations. The British government should guarantee our rights unilaterally and most parties now agree to this.
I would like to thank the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham for organizing this happy event each year and I am delighted that the Polish community is invited to participate. We do so with gratitude and pride.
Wiktor Moszczynski 11th June 2017

Friday, 19 May 2017

Home Office declares war on Polish children and Polish disabled

Two more examples of deliberate insensitivity by the Home Office. They are obviously pandering to the hopeless Tory manifesto pledge of bringing down immigration to the "tens of thousands". Because it is unachievable the application of existing and new Home Office rules will be applied all the more indoscriminately and with scruples over the mst vulnerable in society.

Have already passed this information to the Polish EuroMPs I made contact with in Brussels.

Firstly, Polish children normally received British passports after they were born here when their parent(s) could show they had worked here for at least 5 years and so were eligible for permanent residence.
Now, when it comes to passport renewal after 5 years, the children are stripped of their British nationality where it transpired that the parent had not registered earlier for the Worker Registration Scheme which had been valid in the period 2004 to 2011. Please remember that WRS was optional when it came to the legality of working here, but necessary only when an EU national applied for any benefits, These children are now left stranded without any travel document and quite understandably upset. They can apply separately for British citizenship again but only after paying a fee of £973.

Secondly, elderly Poles, many now bed-ridden and frail, who have lived here for 30 or more years and who have applied for attendance allowance or for disability benefit (under its new euphemistic name - personal independence payment) have been turned down if they receive a pension (no matter how paltry) from Poland. The Home Office response is is that if they are eligible for a small pension in Poland from their earlier years, then they should also apply for these benefits in Poland.

At the "Keep Race out of the Election" meeting I attended in Stratford on Tuesday I explained the work of the3miilion and we had an interesting discussion about
the issue of EU rights and the racist implications of a restrictive immigration policy. NUT teachers were very concerned about the Home Office requiring that schools now seek to record the place of birth and the nationality of children as well as their home language. There was a fear that it would be part of a Home Office plan to identify potential deportees for the future - Roma, Muslim, asylum seekers, East Europeans. Who knows? These points made with Nahella Ashraf.
They wanted to organize a series of mass rallies after June 8th "whoever wins" against racism and on behalf of EU citizens rights. They asked if the3miilion would be interested to participate. Of course I did not commit us but said I would mention it to my colleagues..
We'll be in touch tomorrow.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Ring fence guarantee for EU citizens and UK citizens

Letter to the Editor of "Mail on Sunday"

I hope that your readers who have been overwhelmed with information on the snap so-called "Brexit election" in the last few days will spare a thought for the front line victims of the Brexit decision, namely 2.9 million EU citizens left stranded in this country with their families, uncertain of their prospects and unable to vote in this election which decides their future.
As Theresa May had failed to give them any guarantee about their right to stay, the matter is likely to be dragged out for the next 2 years in negotiations with the EU.
Could not each major party make a statement now, reinforced by inclusion in their manifesto, that all EU citizens currently here under Treaty rules should be allowed to retain their acquired rights to live and work here and that any early agreement on that with EU negotiators should be guaranteed permanently, ring-fenced and put into law immediately, so that the rights of both EU citizens here and UK citizens abroad will not be jeopardized should later negotiations fail.
This is vital for the future of these hard working UK taxpayers with EU nationality whose presence is vital to the economic prosperity, cultural richness and provision of essential services such as the NHS and social care in this country.
Wiktor Moszczynski
Published in "Mail on Sunday" 23 April 2017

Thursday, 20 April 2017

What About EU citizens in Brexit election?

Letter published in "i" - 20th April 2017

From Wiktor Moszczynski, 48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW, tel. 07786471833

Letter to Mr Oliver Duff, Editor of "i"

So we have 11 pages of Brexit coverage following your headline "stunned Britain heads to the polls"
(19/04/2017) but who speaks for the equally stunned and disenfranchised (again) 3 million EU citizens with their families left stranded here with their future still unresolved?

Surely now is the moment for all major parties to declare jointly that the future of the EU citizens currently in this country can be guaranteed. Such a declaration would be hailed by UK business and have a positive influence on the final draft of the negotiation strategy waiting for finalizing next week by the European Parliament and the European Council.
Yours sincerely
Wiktor Moszczynski

Monday, 17 April 2017

EU and post-Brexit UK – A New Partnership

It is important to set a new common goal for both the UK and EU negotiators that would draw each side away from the current endgame mentality of ensuring the best terms for one party and the worst for the other side. Currently both sides are dominated by a negative attitude. Despite declarations to the contrary, the EU side is guided by its claim that the UK must get a worse deal than it had had hitherto as an EU member and that there will be no “cherry-picking” of what it wants most from the single market. The UK government in turn is acting defiant in face of EU negotiating terms, still anxious to keep the more single-minded hard Brexit lobby onside. These negative approaches feed off each other.
The UK attitude springs from the unclear “democratic mandate” of the present British Prime Minister who has not won an electoral mandate for herself or her government and is being steered (some say “spooked”) by the need to try and interpret the referendum result while hide under the empty mantra “Brexit is Brexit”.
Initially the EU negotiators’ mandate was not based on a direct electoral mandate either. It was based on an agreement between the EU heads of government, largely under an agenda hammered out by the EU Commission and the German government. It was next endorsed and even upgraded in severity by the European Parliament, but not by the national parliaments of the EU.
Both such hastily concocted mandates could crumble under pressure, the UK one from divisions in the ruling Conservative Party over the conduct of negotiations, the other from divisions between EU member countries and possible upsets in the coming French and German elections, as well as the unresolved euro and refugee crises.
It does not help that neither side has sufficient trust in the good will of the other. The Gibraltar row was but a more extreme example of this distrust. It gives a hint of the tide of nationalism that lurks between the surface ready to emerge whenever either negotiating party decides to rely too much on negative emotions rather than common sense and mutual interest of both the EU and the UK. The requirement by the EU side that Spain would have a veto over any final deal has even caused former leading UK politicians to raise the spectre of the Falklands War. On the British side, constant blunders by the Home Office in its reinterpretation of “automatic right” to permanent residence for EU citizens and their families, as well as flippant comments by foreign secretary Boris Johnson and the provocative jeers of Nigel Farage in the European Parliament, all served initially to anger public opinion in the EU media and provoke the EU to set a tougher stance. Comments in the past from EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, and his undiplomatic chief of staff Martin Selmayr, have also been unhelpful.
Some EU negotiating initiatives seem almost vindictive, such as the immediate transfer of EU agencies, the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Agency, from London to other European capitals, as well as the current threat of punitive sanctions against UK companies bidding to participate in the Galileo satellite navigation project. The ultimate negotiating goal for both parties remains worlds apart and in the case of the EU it is primarily expressed in terms of the how much more damaging to the UK the future relationship with the single market must be. It is welcome news that Donald Tusk intends to meet Theresa May regularly in order to retain an atmosphere of trust and reduce tension over the more contentious issues.
The EU negotiators are adamant that the issue of EU citizens and the 60 billion euro exit bill must be settled first and that the future trade deal which the UK wants can only be discussed after the legal and financial repercussions of the separation have been resolved. These tough EU negotiating guidelines are likely to be finalized and approved at an EU summit in Brussels on April 29th. The EU has the stronger leverage because it now controls the timetable for the next 2 years and possibly for longer after that. The only leverage left to the UK is a threat to end all negotiations without any agreement which would be worse for UK than for EU, even though many EU manufacturers and exporters like the German car industry would suffer too. David Davis has admitted that if the UK leaves the customs union with no deal then the UK dairy and meat products could face levies between 30% and 40% while UK car makers like Jaguar will face 10% tariffs on their exports to the EU.
It is worth remembering that 44% of UK exports in goods and services go to other countries in the EU (£240bln out of £550bln in total), while the UK imports £290bln from the other EU countries. In fact the UK is the largest single export market for the EU’s goods and services as a whole (16.9%), just ahead of the USA (16.5%). Commercially, both have much to lose. In the meantime, the UK has been seeking better trading relations with the white Commonwealth countries, the USA, India, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and the Philippines, none of which could match the EU in commercial importance and many of which would entail closer cooperation with authoritarian countries that do not share UK and EU democratic values.
The problem for the UK government is that it has no clear electoral mandate for the specific kind of Brexit deal it should be striving for. The UK public still does not have a clear view of the implications of Brexit, except in the broadest terms, and the government has not clarified this to them. There has been no general election since the referendum vote on June 23rd last year and so no opportunity for the government to spell out clearly to the public the costs and losses of leaving the single market. The minor parties, such as the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, are clear in their intention to either reverse the Brexit vote or to settle for the closest possible relationship to the single market. Unfortunately, both the membership and the electorate of the two major parties, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, has no such clear Brexit road-map. This can only be achieved if Parliament chooses to vote out the current parliament by a 2/3 majority and call for a new general election with a coherent platform of a New Partnership between a future post-Brexit UK and the EU. This could be offered to the electorate by either the Conservatives or Labour, or both and it would have the advantage of uniting each party internally and offering a realistic option to the country.
The New Partnership would be based on something that matters to both parties, namely sustaining good trading relations between the UK and EU with open access to each other’s markets. So, it would be vital for both sides to retain tariff free access to the single market provided the UK can satisfy the EU’s current demand that it can still offer free movement in capital, goods, services and labour. In the matter of free movement of labour, the one truly contentious issue, the UK should consider still offering free access for EU citizens, but kept under control with limited or no access to out of work benefits for the first 3 years of their paid employment and no access to in work benefits until the EU citizen has applied successfully for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years. The issue of immigration to most of the UK electorate was a matter of “control” rather than an end to immigration as such. David Cameron’s earlier negotiations before the referendum showed it was possible to gain some leeway in this direction from the EU and that was at a time when no EU leader took Brexit seriously. Now that all parties are clear that Brexit is upon us and with the proviso that an element of trust between EU and UK negotiators is restored, then the EU may well want to show flexibility over benefits with the UK. Even the seemingly intransigent European Parliament is aware of the need to have a public debate in the course of these negotiations on the future of the European Union and has already made clear in its Draft Resolution on Negotiations with the UK that Brexit should “compel the EU-27 and the Union institutions to better address the current challenges and to reflect on their future and on their efforts to make the European project more effective, more democratic, and closer to their citizens”.
The New Partnership should be open to all countries in the EEA, including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, as well as to the UK and the EU countries and could be supervised by a Consultative UK/EEA Council. The non-EU countries within the EEA will be free to decide whether and when this free movement of labour will apply to future countries applying for EU membership.
In this New Partnership, the UK will be allowed to exclude agriculture and fisheries from joint UK/EEA policy, will not be obliged to subscribe to any new EU legislation and be free to amend current EU legislation presently included in the Great Repeal Bill. The main concern for the EU negotiators on this matter would be the need for the UK to retain “a level playing field” in terms of taxes and no dumping of subsidized exports. The UK would also be free to make new international trade deals outside of the EU after the Brexit separation deal is concluded, but these will be the subject of consultation with the UK/EEA Consultative Council.
In order to build early EU confidence in the UK’s proposed New Partnership with the EEA, the UK should be ready to take the first step on the issue on which all 27 EU countries are most sensitive – their own citizens in the UK. The UK could make a unilateral declaration guaranteeing the right to stay and retain acquired rights for all EU citizens in the UK, or who have residences in the UK, valid at least up to and including the date the declaration is made. EU citizens could then be promptly registered and issued with appropriate special status IDs by local authorities and their pathway to eventual Indefinite Leave to Remain, and ultimately to UK British citizenship, can be retained. The EU status of permanent residence would become redundant so all those who had obtained it would automatically receive the UK equivalent status of Indefinite Leave to Remain. The question of the rights of future EU citizens coming to the UK during the negotiation period can still be a subject for further discussions with the EU. The EU negotiating position is based on similar rights being offered to UK citizens abroad to those being offered by the UK government, on the declared grounds of “reciprocity”, “continuity” and “symmetry”, so they would be obliged to make their reciprocal statements about UK citizens after the UK declaration is made. Details of the rights of newly arrived EU and UK citizens in the 2 year negotiating period and the 3 year transition period can be the subject of further separate negotiation while the UK should recognize that for the 2 year period of negotiation any new arrivals would still be able to enjoy full EU status, even if only temporarily.
The UK government should also express its readiness to try for a 3 year transitional period after the 2 year negotiating period is over and a separation deal has been reached and approved so as to give time for the trade negotiations to be completed. Even in those trade talks the main discussion will be around divergence (rather than with the convergence required in other EU treaties, such as with Canada) so the less that needs to be excluded from current trade arrangements, the more likely they will be to reach a quicker agreement. The European Parliament, which ultimately has to ratify any deal with the UK, has already conceded this 3 year transitional period, although it insists on the European Court of Justice remaining the final arbiter in that period, something which the UK government may still want to challenge, even in the New Partnership.
It would also help in mutual confidence building if the UK government should give support to other EU initiatives such as the attempted naval blockade in the southern Mediterranean and future joint declarations with EU on security, peace initiatives and aid programmes world-wide. It should also go for the widest possible cooperation on scientific research. The UK would be free however to opt in or out of common regional fund programmes, the European Space Agency, Erasmus or climate change initiatives, even if only as a third party, and the UK may well negotiate a new looser associate status with Euratom, similar to that of Switzerland.
While the proposed New Partnership may seem naïve and over optimistic in the current negative climate in which the negotiations are being approached, it is still a much better option for both sides. It will require the need for both Conservatives and Labour to face the electorate promptly with courage and honesty, recognizing the reality of Brexit but saving both the UK and the EU from its worst excesses. it will allow the vexed question of displaced EU and UK citizens to be sorted fairly and quickly; it make it easier to resolve the border issues in Ireland, Gibraltar and the British bases in Cyprus; it will conduct the financial and legal separation in good faith, and it will ensure that the final trade settlement and future relationship will still be in the interest of all parties, including all 27 countries of the EU and all 4 nations of the United Kingdom.

Wiktor Moszczynski

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Can Theresa May seize the initiative on EU citizens?

If there was one common issue that united both Leave and Remain campaigners during the Brexit referendum campaign it was that, whatever the outcome, those 3.2 million EU citizens that had settled here legally in the course of the last 40 years, under Treaty rules, should be allowed to stay in the UK on the same terms as before. There was concern that a similar right should also be extended to 1.2 million UK citizens who had settled in other EU countries, but broadly public opinion and politicians of all persuasion believed that these rights should be guaranteed unilaterally. The3million group representing EU citizens in the UK lobbied parliament on this. Even representatives of British expats abroad, such as the British in Europe Coalition, called for the same. Indeed, the Parliamentary Committee for Exiting the European Union, chaired by Hilary Benn, which included prominent campaigners from both camps, concluded unanimously that the UK government should take the initiative unilaterally and immediately and ensure that any uncertainty over the future status of these citizens be confirmed by an Act of Parliament.
At the time the arguments, as laid out for instance in the letter from Polish community leaders in the parliamentary “House” magazine in December 2016, were irrefutable. There was a moral duty to honour the commitment to EU citizens who had arrived and settled here legally and had contributed more than £20bn in a 10 year period between 2001 and 2011 to the UK economy. Also, UK companies, as well as institutions such as the NHS, needed a stable environment to plan their future investment and employment policies and needed to know if their EU staff would be allowed to stay. Polish and other EU entrepreneurs, workers and their families would not feel pressurized into leaving early and uprooting their children due to economic uncertainty and the rise in hate crimes and xenophobic intimidation. Just the Polish community alone has more than 180,000 children here under the age of 14, traumatized by uncertainty over their future. An early declaration about EU citizens would also have set a positive tone for starting the EU negotiations. Last but not least, an early declaration with a clear demarcation date, would have discouraged that “surge” of new EU arrivals, which the Government feared.
Yet the Government felt unable to take this initiative, despite heaping praise on the positive role that EU citizens and their families had played in this country. They referred constantly to the fear, unsubstantiated by any concrete evidence, that the EU organizations and individual EU governments had failed to give such a commitment guaranteeing the right of UK citizens in Europe, while forgetting that it was the UK that was leaving the EU, and not the other way round. It was the decision of the UK, as a sovereign country, to leave the EU and that required that same sovereign country to take responsibility for all who were residing here legally and had been left stranded by the Brexit referendum result. No EU country had many any threat to UK citizens, unlike Dr Liam Fox’s comments about EU citizens and their children as being a “key card” in the negotiations, and many EU governments said openly that UK citizens would be safe in their country.
As Prime Minister Theresa May and the majority of the present government had voted Remain in the referendum and had not received a personal mandate to rule in an election, perhaps she and her cabinet had sought legitimacy by interpreting the result of the referendum in the most radical way possible by opting to play the role of the tough negotiator over EU citizens’ rights, rather than the diplomatic statesman.
This procrastination has its negative consequences, above all on the EU communities themselves, who feel more and more discriminated against with each month. More than a quarter of EU citizens, who had applied for permanent residence (PR) under the “automatic” 5 year residence rule, have had their applications refused. The reasons have been various. They range from the introduction of a hitherto unknown requirement for a comprehensive sickness insurance, the elimination of self-employed with irregular and therefore insufficient incomes, and the unexpected onus on all applicants to give all foreign travel details and declared income over the full period of stay in this country. Sometimes rejection of a PR application has been followed by a totally illegal demand to leave the country immediately. Such behaviour has been commented on negatively not only in the UK media, but more vociferously in the EU as well. Also in some cases banks have started to refuse loan facilities to EU citizens and to EU owned businesses while some insurance companies have been reluctant to give extended cover. For some EU citizens the situation is becoming untenable.
But it also has negative consequences for the government as well. Instead of setting the agenda on this issue with a formal guarantee of a new status for EU citizens, backed by an Act of Parliament, the Government waited to resolve the matter on a reciprocal basis before negotiations began. Now that the issue is to be broached with EU negotiators, the UK government has lost the initiative, especially in the matter of the demarcation date, and has to deal with the prospect of those rights being extended not only to those currently here but also to those arriving during the negotiations and even for a probable three years’ transition period after that. It is not clear to what extent the more radical supporters of Brexit, to whom current and future immigrations levels were a cause of major concern, would react to this state of affairs. It also staves off any certainty that EU citizens will receive this guarantee until all the negotiations are over as that will be in two years’ time at the earliest. A temporary agreement on the status of EU and UK citizens may be reached earlier and ringfenced but the EU is adamant that EU law, and therefore also the acquired rights of EU citizens, will continue in the UK until the negotiations are over, and should the negotiations fail completely, as is desired by some recalcitrant Conservative MPs and by UKIP, then even this temporary agreed package could be declared null and void.
However, it will be at least June before the negotiations really begin. In those next two months or so the UK government could still take the initiative and state clearly in Parliament that all EU citizens currently here legally, whether as employers, employees, self-employed, self-sufficient, students or genuine family dependents of the above, are given immediate right to remain here for an indefinite period and they retain the right to apply for UK citizenship as well if they fulfil the usual criteria. This should cover even those that are here for a shorter period than 5 years as they can be offered a guaranteed pathway to remain status after the 5 years are over. This would resolve the immediate dilemma of EU citizens and their employers, clarify the status of EU citizens for health authorities, schools, social services and other institutions directly affected by them, will oblige the EU negotiators to offer a similar guarantee to UK citizens abroad and have a positive impact on the tone of negotiations that follow. Local authorities who already have access to EU citizens in their area could take immediate steps to register these citizens and prevent future identity fraud. It may be that EU negotiators will still want to clarify further details and extend these rights to a broader section of later EU arrivals, but at least it would resolve the most pressing immediate problems arising from Brexit.
Currently buffeted left and right by issues such as the “alimony” payment of £50bn, the proposed Scottish referendum, the future of Northern Ireland and sabre rattling on both sides over Gibraltar, has the present Government the resolve to lift its head above the parapet on the issue of EU citizens and take steps to offer that guarantee to EU citizens which it should have agreed 6 months ago? Justice, economic necessity and common sense require that they should.
Wiktor Moszczynski 07/04/2017

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Brexit and the Polish community

My name is Wiktor Moszczynski and, as you can see from my name, I am a Londoner. I am also a member of the Polish community in the UK. There are 916,000 Polish nationals currently here, the largest single group within the EU community in the UK. They were encouraged to come here after 2004 when Poland and its neighbours joined the EU. They joined the children and grandchildren of the post-war Polish community which had fought alongside the British as soldiers, as pilots as sailors in the struggle against Nazi Germany.
The new Poles, skilled and unskilled, many with University degrees, worked in hospitals, in offices and in factories, rescued hundreds of British farms from bankruptcy and set up over 80,000 businesses. They contribute up to £2billion annually to the UK economy.
Even though they paid income tax and national insurance and Council tax they were denied a vote in the Brexit referendum which was about their own future.
Now they are literally beached on a foreign shore with their families, their future is blighted Permanent residence is now no longer “automatic” after 5 years residence, their access to NHS and to social services is being challenged, and hate crime and discrimination are on the rise. There are 187,000 Polish children here aged below 14. Their future was tied up with this country, now their world has collapsed. Do they have to give up their British friends as their parents contemplate whether they should stay here or go? Theresa may should be ashamed for those children’s tears.
Other Europeans too have their future blighted. And young people of Britain have been blighted too, disenfranchised and deprived of their European identity and their European ambitions.
Why has this happened?
The government and Parliament, a majority of whom had voted Remain, have been spooked by fanatical Brexiteers who claim they have a democratic mandate for a hard Brexit that threatens us all with a collapsing economy, reduces investment and closes borders as they bay for the blood of anyone who disagrees.
Democratic mandate? In the words of Shania Twain – “That don’t impress me much”.
Initially Hitler had a democratic mandate, Mussolini had a democratic mandate, Putin had a democratic mandate, even Mugabe initially had a democratic mandate.
But these so-called democratic mandates were built on the quicksand of fear and hate and lies, on contempt for minorities and a lust for order and intimidation. A democracy is incomplete unless it is based on human rights and a voice for all its citizens. A true democracy has to have the checks and balances of an independent press and an independent judiciary, who are not referred to as “enemies of the people” whenever Brexiteers dislike their decision.
There is no proper democratic mandate for impoverishing the country, depriving EU citizens of their rights and young British people of their future in Europe.
Now Parliament has authorized the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50. Though we have lost that battle, we have not lost the war.
We must all, Brits, Poles and other EU citizens, remain steadfast. Our eventual victory will come when our luckless Brexiteer negotiators will find that they have proudly slammed the door in Europe’s face and now they are outside, alone, desperately looking for allies, in Turkey, in China, with Donald Trump. The British people will no longer believe the Brexiteers and will search for an alternative. Then we can offer the people of Britain that alternative, a chance to shed their Daily Mail blinkers and see the reality stemming from their decision. Then we can instruct our political leaders to reverse the Brexit nightmare and rejoin the EU.
So keep the fight going until then and good luck
Wiktor Moszczynski - Speech at Unite for Europe Rally 25th March 2017

Local government to administer EU citizens' registration

Memorandum to Dept of Exit to EU

The 3 Million Alternative White Paper which Nicolas Hatton presented at our meeting with you touches on this issue when it drew on the inadequacy of the current permanent residence application process, on the combative Home Office attitude to what should have been an "automatic" approval and on the need for primary legislation to create a new status which could supplant the permanent residence programme. The3Million AWP gave a full list of all the rights which the new legislation should guarantee and stressed the need to encompass all EU citizens legally resident here before a mutually agreed demarcation date. 3 Million recognize that, following the enactment of that legislation, there will be a need "for the Home Office to undertake a vast programme of registration" but they have not yet had the opportunity to suggest how that registration is to be administered speedily and fairly for all EU citizens.

As Convenor of the "A Fair deal for Poles in UK" letter, which appeared as a privately crowdfunded advertisement in the parliamentary magazine "The House" on December 9th,2016, (copy enclosed),. I have discussed this with members of the Polish community as well as with councillors and MPs and would like to suggest an option which was published by me in "The Observer" on February 26th. Please treat this submission as being supplementary to the document prepared by the 3 Million.

It is apparent that local authorities are already in the best position to arrange the new registration and to issue appropriate IDs to their local EU residents as they are already responsible for local registers of births, deaths and marriages, the electoral roll and have access to social service, library and school records. The Home Office already outreaches the applications for UK citizenship to local government and this appears to be both effective and popular. They can draw on the additional records held by the Home Office and the Department of Work and Pensions where necessary, but they already have experience in issuing bus passes, blue badges and similar documents to their own residents under rules laid down by national legislation. Local government officials have a more inclusive work ethic in comparison with, say, the Home Office, which tends to seek to exclude where possible by insisting that the onus lies with the EU applicant to provide the correct information. In fact the Home Office has been responsible for a large number of much publicized misjudgements recently in relation to granting EU citizens a permanent residence that was promised to be "automatic", including the threat for EU citizens to leave the United Kingdom (since withdrawn). Now that the government has opted for a reciprocal arrangement with EU countries over future guarantees for EU citizens (against our advice), the Home Office approach would begin to be commented on very critically by media and governments in other EU countries if they followed their usual procedures..

Council staff on the contrary will be able to initiate contact with EU households in theirarea with a view to ensuring a swift and positive registration that reassures EU citizens that they are welcome here. This in turn would be positively interpreted by the governments of EU countries as they prepare the legislation to ensure an equally secure future for UK citizens in their territory. Also the extent of their long term records are such that identity fraud would be highly unlikely. Local council staff have the further incentive to perform because by increasing the number of successful registrations they are sustaining their tax base. The need for a speedy process of registration and issue of ID's is is further justified by the fact that in many areas NHS staff are now requiring identification from foreigner patients who may initially seem to qualify possible Overseas Visitor Status. EU citizens need to be reassured of a continued automatic access to a free NHS service without discrimination or undue bureaucracy. .

It is recognized that currently councils are under enormous budgeting pressures as their central government grants are reduced and they may be reluctant to take on new tasks unless they are externally funded. Therefore the administrative cost of registering EU citizens could be covered from a central fund, ring-fenced entirely for this purpose, in the hands of the Treasury or the Home Office.

Let us remember that this will be but a one off exercise lasting at most two or three years. It will not be a prolonged system that will last without end and therefore it will be relatively simple to budget for this expenditure. It remains vital to perform this task quickly and efficiently as soon as the legislation is passed by parliament as Poles and other EU citizens have come here in good faith covered by the UK’s adherence to EU rules and they have contributed considerably to the UK economy and to the social and cultural fabric of this nation. It is important also to their children, even those born here, who see their future in this country, but whose parents may feel sufficiently insecure to choose to leave the UK should their registration not be administered smoothly.

The international implications of this legislation and its eventual implementation are such that normal Home Office immigration rules and practices should be sufficiently modified to ensure that EU citizens retain theur confidence that their future status in this country is assured, that the interests of UK citizens abroad are also not affected adversely and that other aspects of UK-EU relations are not jeopardized by this process. The treatment of Polish exiles in 1946 and Displaced Persons from German camps in 1947 are a good precedent as to how the Home Office was able to let Polish and other applicants complete their registration based on undocumented statements about themselves. These registrations were completed over a 2 year period for more than 300,000 citizens but it was considered to be in the country's interest that this should take place.

I hope you can give my submission the same care and attention which you gave the well documented 3 Million alternative White Paper. After all we are all seeking a solution that best serves the interests of both the United Kingdom and the EU citizens in this country.

Yours sincerely
Wiktor Moszczynski 24th March 2017

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Brexit storm and EU citizens

Letter to Editor of "Ealing Gazette"
from Wiktor Moszczynski, 48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW, tel 07786471833
Dear Mr Editor,
I would like to commend the piece by Stephen Pound MP on the Brexit dilemma for EU citizens in Ealing. They came her in good faith, found work easily, especially in the boom years of the Noughties, set up families, contributed to the UK economy and to the Ealing Council tax base and play a crucial role in the vibrant cultural and commercial life of Ealing.

Currently the see saw on Brexit between the House of Lords and the House of Commons has given EU citizens the merest glimmer of hope that their contribution will be recognized and their future right to stay and work here will be guaranteed as promised initially by all the major Leave campaigners. The work by Steve, as well as his neighbour MPs, Rupa Huq, Virendra Sharma and Andrew Slaughter, to ensure the continuing rights of EU citizens, is particularly appreciated by the the Polish community in Ealing and Hammersmith, both the post-war refugees and the more recent EU arrivals.

We know that Labour MPs will vote for the amendment again to ensure EU citizens currently here can stay. This is not a vote to reverse Brexit, but to make it more palatable for British businesses, the care industry and the NHS, as they need to know the long term future of their EU employees..

However Steve's main task now is to convince previously sympathetic Tory MPs that they too must vote the Lords amendment through the Commons next week. Also he must help prepare the legislative groundwork for ensuring that local government, and not the Home Office, will handle the administrative task of registering EU citizens in the new post-Brexit Britain as otherwise the process will last many years and will be done with extreme prejudice to all EU citizens who have worked in Ealing legally for many decades and for the 4322 Polish-speaking children now in Ealing schools...
Yours faithfully

Thursday, 16 March 2017

England and Scotland -Two Queens

The increasing personal confrontation between two formidable women leaders, namely the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the First Minister of Scotland brings to mind the conflict between two other formidable women - Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.
Mary too wanted European powers to interfere in England's destiny and restore mainstream European Catholicism following Henry VIII's earlier Brexit. One hopes that this time the conflict will be more amicably resolved than that earlier one, but ultimately it did end up with the Mary's son and successor inheriting both kingdoms.

Monday, 6 March 2017

EU citizens not bargaining chips

Letter to Editor of Evening Standard

Dear Sirs
You refer to the Prime Minister's "reasonable wish that British nationals should have the same protection in the EU" )2?03/17) as that which Sadiq Khan and the House of Lords want to offer EU citizens here. Unfortunately there is nothing "reasonable" about this wish if this is translated into plunging EU citizens in this country, including their mainly British-born children, into many years of a twilight existence as "bargaining chips" in future negotiations with the EU. By so doing she is exposing Brits in the EU to becoming "bargaining chips" too, precisely what she has been trying to avoid.
It looks as if it is the Home Office which is setting the agenda, regardless of their insensitivity to all things "foreign", and their current shameful treatment of EU citizens' supposedly automatic right to permanent residence, and it is making EU citizens here very very nervous. The government should swallow its pride, recognize the right to stay of all EU citizens currently here legally and leave local authorities with the one off task of registering them. It is want Brits abroad want too.
Yours faithfully
Wiktor Moszczynski
Published in Evening Standard 6th March 2017

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Tony Blair and the Polish invasion

Letter to the Editor of "The New European"
from Wiktor Moszczynski, 48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW, tel 0208 992 7816. tel 07786471833

Dear Sir,
Michael White's reflective article on Tony Blair's latest contribution to the Brexit debate ("Blair's real role: to temper romanticism with realism" (TNR 24/2/17-02/03/17) was wrong on the issues surrounding the influx of Polish and other East European workers in 2004. The arrival of these diligent workers with a positive work ethic was not in itself a mistake. On the contrary, it was overwhelmingly beneficial to the UK economy in order to help the sustain the boom at the time and largely popular with public opinion which then shared the "Labour values" of tolerance and multi-culturalism. As a result it was the UK and Ireland who get the best and most enterprising East European workers as opposed to France and Germany where almost as many workers arrived except that they stayed in the grey economy and paid no taxes. .
The real mistake at the time over these arrivals was threefold: firstly, an initial careless but dramatic miscalculation as to the numbers likely to arrive; secondly, a failure to link the National Insurance registration with the need to sign up with the Worker Registration Scheme, and thirdly, a failure until too late to invest in the social and administrative infrastructure in those parts of the country where the impact of the new arrivals left an excessive strain on local health, police and education services. These mistakes were all commented by me and others at the time and the failure to rectify them led to much of the distrust, anger and misunderstanding on the issue of EU immigration after the financial crisis blew up in the face of the economy, from which UK workers outside the big cities suffered the most. We are still paying that price today.
Yours faithfully
Wiktor Moszczynski .
Published 3rd March 2017

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Councils to Register EU citizens, not Home Office - Letter to the Observer

From Wiktor Moszczynski, Convenor of "A Fair Deal for Poles in UK"
48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW, tel 07786471833
Dear Editor,
In answer to your front page report "Chaos looms for EU citizens" (19/02/2017) the 3 million EU citizens in this country are concerned not only whether their right to stay will eventually be guaranteed but also how it would be administered once the guarantee has been given. Amber Rudd in her reply to Hilary Benn had already implied that new IDs need to be issued and new proposed regulations for access to the NHS probably makes this inevitable.
It is apparent that local authorities are already in the best position to arrange the registration and to issue appropriate IDs to their local EU residents as they are already responsible for local registers of births, deaths and marriages, the electoral roll and social service and school records. They can draw on the additional resources of the Home Office and the Department of Work and Pensions where necessary, but they already have experience in issuing bus passes, blue badges and similar documents. Also, they have a less officious and more inclusive work ethic in comparison with, say, the Home Office, which tends to seek to exclude and has been responsible for a large number of much publicized blunders recently in relation to EU citizens.
It is recognized that currently councils are under enormous budgeting pressures as their central government grants are reduced and they may be reluctant to take on new tasks but the administrative cost of registering EU citizens could be covered from a central fund, ring-fenced entirely for this purpose, in the hands of the Treasury. Let us remember that this will be but a one off exercise lasting at most two or three years. It remains vital to perform this task quickly and efficiently as Poles and other EU citizens have come here in good faith covered by the UK’s adherence to EU rules and they have contributed considerably to the UK economy and to the social and cultural fabric of this nation. There are for instance 187,000 Polish children here who saw themselves as UK citizens and they should be saved from the trauma of being sent to Poland or another EU country because their parents feel concerned about their future.in post-Brexit UK.
Yours sincerely
Wiktor Moszczynski
26th February 2017

Friday, 17 February 2017

Will the House of Lords betray us too?

The vote at the House of Commons over the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill on Wednesday 8th February was disappointing for the 2.9 million bewildered EU citizens in the UK as the amendment to secure their rights here unilaterally was defeated by 322 to 290 votes. None was more bewildered and felt more betrayed than the 984,000 who form the largest single contingent within the EU, namely the Polish citizens. Regrettably that sense of betrayal is within the Polish DNA, a legacy of the WWII experience when Poles were first lionized as Britain’s truest gallant allies and then discarded as victims of the Yalta Agreement. Now they sense a repeat “Deja vu” – the Polish work ethic praised 10 years ago in the British media, and now they and their children are but the largest contingent of EU citizens referred to humiliatingly by Dr Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, as “main cards” in the Brexit negotiations poker game. Not do they accept the argument about reciprocity. They believe that as it was the UK’s decision to leave the EU and not the other way round, it was the UK’s responsibility to declare immediately that EU citizens currently here will be allowed to stay. In any case the Polish government was one of the first in the EU to declare that UK citizens would be safe in Poland after Brexit. Many had come here more than 10 years ago out of a sense of adventure but then settled down her, set up families, prospered and contributed massively to the UK economy. Until the referendum brought in a new harsher reality, the overwhelming majority of them felt welcome in the UK and treated it as their new home.
Many Poles are only dimly aware from their media sources in Polish freebie magazines and websites that this amendment on their rights failed because of a confidential letter written that same day by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd to Conservative MPs which effectively conceded the principle that EU citizens currently here should be allowed eventually to stay but argued that the details of their status would be clarified during the passage of a new Immigration Bill at some unknown future date. The letter from the Home Secretary also concedes that the current advice to EU citizens to apply, when eligible, for “permanent residence” status, will take too long. This is hardly surprising to Poles as the Migration Observatory has calculated that it could take 140 years to register all 3 million EU citizens in the UK at the current rate at “permanent resident” applicants are processed. While many Poles who have been here more than 5 years are now resigned to the fact their legal status post-Brexit will be recognized eventually at some future date it still does not protect them and their children from insulting comments in the work place, at school and in public areas and still leaves their status as employees with pension rights and benefit entitlements unresolved. Recently a British nationalist thug pushed a young Pole under a train in Bond Street station while another Pole was killed by thugs in Harlow. They are still vulnerable to ruthless employers exploiting the current uncertainty by blackmailing them with reduced wages. This is especially true if they have been here legally paying taxes but for less than 5 years. They need their status defined now and not during the next few years. They need to know that clear demarcation date before which their post-Brexit status will be guaranteed in the knowledge that the status of those arriving after that will depend on the result of future negotiations with other EU countries.
For the time being the EU nationals issue, along with the whole Brexit Bill, has been directed to the House of Lords who will debate it in the last week of February. The Lords, in their discussion document “Brexit: acquired rights” published in December, favoured a special status that should be defined and implemented unilaterally covering all EU citizens, including students, who arrived here legally before the referendum date of June 23rd 2016. Will the House of Lords have the courage to withstand the threats of the Government and the more fanatical Brexiteers and hold to what they concluded in their report? And if they pass the amendment for an immediate unilateral guarantee will the Remainer Tories on this occasion be ready to support Labour and the smaller parties in passing the amendment in the Commons? Or will they rely again on the promises of the Home Office? Poles, like other EU citizens will want to know now, and not at some future date, if they still retain the same right as UK citizens to the minimum wage, pensions, benefits, access to education and the NHS and the right to vote in local elections as before, because they are still paying the same national insurance, income tax and council tax as before. Will they still be eligible to apply for UK membership provided they have been in the UK for more than 5 years and pass the relevant civic and language tests? The more this is delayed the more Poles may decide, despite the desperate pleas of their Anglicized children, that they have been betrayed for long enough and move back to Poland or elsewhere more reliable within the EU.
Finally, Poles want to know how this eventual recognition in their status can be administered to ensure that 3 million EU citizens can register for it as quickly as possible once the guarantee has been given. Amber Rudd in her reply to Hilary Benn has already implied that new IDs need to be issued. Poles are highly suspicious of the Home Office should they be responsible for registering EU citizens. It is apparent that local authorities are already in the best position to arrange the registration and to issue appropriate IDs to their local residents as they are already responsible for local registers of births, deaths and marriages, the electoral roll and social service and school records. They can draw on the additional resources of the Home Office and the Department of Work and Pensions where necessary, but they already have experience in issuing bus passes, blue badges and similar documents. Also, they have a less officious and more inclusive work ethic in comparison with, say, the Home Office, which tends to seek to exclude and has been responsible for a large number of much publicized blunders recently in relation to EU citizens. It is recognized that currently councils are under enormous budgeting pressures as their central government grants are reduced and they may be reluctant to take on new tasks but the administrative cost of registering EU citizens could be covered from a central fund, ring-fenced entirely for this purpose, in the hands of the Treasury. Let us remember that this will be but a one off exercise lasting at most two or three years.
It remains vital to perform this task quickly and efficiently as Poles and other EU citizens have come here in good faith covered by the UK’s adherence to EU rules and they have contributed considerably to the UK economy and to the social and cultural fabric of this nation. This is not an unpopular measure as, according to a post-referendum poll, 84% respondents believe that EU citizens living in the UK should have the right to stay. The need for speeding up the decision on the continued right of EU citizens to stay is being championed by organizations such as The 3million and by the New Europeans who are now jointly, with the support of UNISON and “A Fair Deal for Poles in UK”, organizing a Mass Lobby of Parliament on February 20th.
Last year there were 984,000 UK residents with Polish nationality. Their food shops are visible in every town centre and their language is the second most common in the UK after English. They form a sizeable minority in most parts of the UK. 97,444 of them were on London’s electoral registers last year, which is 1.6% of the total London electorate. Last year too there were more than 187,000 Polish children below the age of 14, while 23,000 children of Polish mothers are born in the UK every year. These children see their future exclusively in the UK speaking Polish at home and English at school. They helped cement their parents’ further integration into British society. Yet they too are now part of Liam Fox’s “bargaining chips”. If the government delays the guarantee to their parents about their secured right to stay, many of them will have gone and the Government will enter negotiations with an empty deck of cards.
Wiktor Moszczynski, Convenor of “A Fair Deal for Poles in UK” 15th February 2017