Polish Londoner

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

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