Why thousands of people who thought they were British could lose …

One of the apparent collateral damage of BREXIT:

Confusion has arisen around the British government’s own understanding of its citizenship laws, following a judgment by the UK’s high court. In a ruling handed down on January 20 2023, in the case of Roehrig v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Mr Justice Eyre determined that the restrictive approach applied by the Home Office since 2000 to how the children of EU nationals automatically acquire citizenship is the correct interpretation of the law.

The case in question concerns the nationality of Antoine Lucas Roehrig, who was born on October 20 2000 in the UK. His mother is a French national who had lived and worked in the UK under EU law for the five years before he was born. Roehrig claimed he acquired British citizenship at birth by virtue of section 1(1)(b) of the British Nationality Act 1981 because his mother was settled in the UK at the time he was born. The Home Office disputed that his mother met the act’s criteria for being settled and refused his application for a British passport.

Eyre’s ruling in favour of the Home Office hinges on the government’s interpretation of how the legal definition of being “settled” in the UK applied to EU nationals. It could upend the lives of many thousands of people, who have always believed that they were British.

Indefinite leave to remain

Before 1983, anyone born in the UK automatically acquired British citizenship. After that, when the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force, those born in the UK would only be considered British citizens if at least one of their parents were either a British citizen themselves or “settled” in the UK at the time of the child’s birth.

For 17 years, the Home Office deemed EU nationals exercising free movement rights in the UK to be settled and their UK-born children, thus, British. But on October 2 2000, the Home Office changed the rules. In order to be deemed “settled”, EU nationals now had to apply for and be granted indefinite leave to remain.

The problem is that many EU nationals did not apply for indefinite leave to remain, simply because they did not need it to enter and reside in the UK. Why apply for something you apparently don’t need?

The question posed by Roehrig’s case, therefore, is whether EU nationals without indefinite leave to remain could be considered “settled”. To answer this question, the high court had to determine whether EU nationals met the definition, as specified in section 50 of the British Nationality Act, of someone residing in the UK without any immigration law restrictions on the period that they could stay.

EU law, which had direct effect in the UK until Brexit, effectively created a conditional residence for EU nationals, who could reside in the UK for as long as they remained a “qualified person”. These residence rights were usually granted on the basis of being in employment. In certain circumstances, someone might be eligible through being unable to work due to illness or job loss, through living off personal savings, or through relying on a family member.

Eyre found that this conditional residence had the same effect as an immigration law restriction on the period for which EU nationals could remain in the UK. In other words, he judged that being a “qualified person” under EU free movement law did not mean you can now be deemed to have been “settled”.

This is a surprising interpretation of the law. Until Brexit, and the subsequent requirement to apply for the EU settlement scheme, many EU nationals were able to reside in the UK on the basis of EU law for decades without applying for indefinite leave to remain. They were treated as settled, and their children treated as British.

The impact of this judgment

Importantly, new rules, like those the Home Office introduced on October 2 2000, do not actually change the law. They simply alter the interpretation of the law and how to implement it.

Eyre has decided that the Home Office’s restrictive approach to British citizenship, as applied since October 2 2000, is the correct interpretation of the British Nationality Act. It follows that the previous interpretation, as implemented between 1983 and October 2 2000, was incorrect. This means that the Home Office will have mistakenly granted British citizenship to many people born during this time period to parents who, like Roehrig’s mother, were “qualified persons” under EU free movement law.

Conversely, if Roehrig appeals the judgment, and is successful, it is the restrictive approach the Home Office has taken since 2000 that will be found to be unlawful. The interpretation of the law, as implemented before October 2000, will have been the correct one. In this instance, the Home Office will have mistakenly denied British citizenship to many people born since 2000 to EU nationals who should have been considered to be “settled” in the UK.

Given that the government has greatly underestimated the number of EU nationals living in the UK before Brexit, it is not unreasonable to expect the number of people who could be affected, either way, to be in the tens of thousands.

The secretary of state’s submissions to the high court provided reassurance that the Home Office has accepted “as a matter of policy and fairness” that affected children born before October 2 2000 are British. But this is simply a matter of policy. It provides no legal certainty.

As immigration barrister Colin Yeo warns, the Home Office has nullified citizenship before, relying on the confusing logic that it was never actually held if acquired through error or Home Office mistake. At present, the policy to recognise the British citizenship of those born before October 2 2000 has been paused.

And what of those who have gone on to have their own children, thinking they had passed on their British citizenship? Guaranteeing protection for the affected group could be achieved through legislation which retroactively recognises their acquisition of British citizenship. For now, though, thousands of “possibly British” people with EU national parents are left facing great uncertainty.

Source: Why thousands of people who thought they were British could lose …

Liz Truss plans more immigration in effort to fill vacancies and drive growth

Of note. More post-Brexit policy incoherence:

Liz Truss is preparing to increase immigration to fill job vacancies and boost economic growth in a move that will anger some of her ministers and MPs.

The prime minister plans to raise the number of workers allowed to enter the UK, government sources have confirmed.

Reports claim the government will lift the cap on seasonal agricultural workers and broadband engineers, and make other changes to the shortage occupations list, which will allow key sectors to recruit more overseas staff.

Truss is said to be keen to recruit broadband engineers to complete a pledge to make full-fibre broadband available to 85% of UK homes by 2025. It has also been suggested that she could ease the English-language requirement in some sectors to enable more foreign workers to qualify for visas.

The proposals faces resistance from cabinet Brexiters including the home secretary, Suella Braverman, and the trade secretary, Kemi Badenoch, according to the Sunday Times.

One Conservative MP said that many new Conservative voters in “red wall” seats will be baffled by any softening of immigration rules.

“The government is going to have to explain to those people who thought we were a pro-Brexit government and want to curb immigration why we seem to be changing tack,” the MP said.

Ministers are also discussing whether to allow in more highly educated workers from across the globe. This includes proposals for a new visa for workers who have graduated from one of the top 50 or top 100 global universities.

Two million UK job vacancies were advertised last month, with the social care sector trying to fill 105,000 posts. There is also a shortfall of 40,000 nurses and 100,000 HGV drivers, and the farming industry has called for an extra 30,000 visas for seasonal workers.

The Sunday Times said the Cabinet Office minister, Nadhim Zahawi, had chaired a meeting last week about the proposed changes. He is understood to be in favour of updating the shortage occupations list. The environment secretary, Ranil Jayawardena, is believed to be backing the plan to boost the number of seasonal farm workers.

Badenoch is opposing proposals for a “freedom of movement” agreement with the Indian government as part of a trade deal she is negotiating, it was reported.

The chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced on Friday that a new plan would be published in the coming weeks “to ensure the immigration system supports growth while maintaining control”.

Asked on Sunday if the government was prepared to relax immigration rules, he said Braverman would make an announcement soon.

“The home secretary would be making an update on immigration policy … she will be making that in the next few weeks,” he told BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

The government pledged that a new immigration system would be introduced after leaving the EU, with ministers saying it would bring down overall levels.

There are almost 1.8 million non-EU nationals working in Britain, 302,000 more than a year ago, according to the Office for National Statistics. Home Office figures show the number of visas given to all workers, students and their relatives, both EU and non-EU, has risen by more than 80% in a year to more than 1.1m, the largest number on record.

Meanwhile, more than 30,000 people seeking refuge in the UK have crossed the Channel in small boats, government figures show.

Source: Liz Truss plans more immigration in effort to fill vacancies and drive growth

British people have become startlingly less xenophobic

Of interest:

In june 2016 Nigel Farage, then the leader of the uk Independence Party, unveiled a poster showing a line of refugees. “breaking point”, it screamed, in red letters. “We must break free of the eu and take back control of our borders.” Boris Johnson, a leading light in the main Leave campaign, sniffily described it as “not my politics”. But perhaps it revealed something, he suggested. If Britain left the eu, people might calm down about immigration.

He seems to have been right. On September 14th a poll by Ipsos mori revealed a markedly more relaxed nation. Excluding “don’t knows”, the share who want immigration reduced stands at 50%, down from 69% in early 2015 (see chart). A non-negligible 18% want more of it. Polls by other firms show much the same trend.

Source: British people have become startlingly less xenophobic

Andy Beckett: Brexit may spell the end of the tabloid version of Englishness. Can Labour redefine it?

Interesting commentary:

For too long, one version of Englishness has dominated British politics. Proud, white, both confident and defensive, often xenophobic, always anti-Europe, this Englishness has changed as little as the tabloid front pages that have bellowed it out for decades. Brexit is one of its greatest victories. The continuing Conservative ascendancy is another.

Even formidable politicians of other parties have struggled to popularise a different national identity. Gordon Brown got lost in well-meaning but unconvincing generalities about the British national character: in 2007, he praised our “tolerance”, “decency”, and love of “fair play” and “liberty”.

Tony Blair tried to adopt the language of conservative patriotism for Labour’s own purposes. One of his election broadcasts in 1997 intercut promises of a national revival with footage of a waking bulldog. Labour won the election, but the idea that national pride could only be expressed through such dated Churchillian symbols was left unchallenged.

Source: Brexit may spell the end of the tabloid version of Englishness. Can Labour redefine it?

UK races to deport asylum seekers ahead of Brexit

Of note:

Scores of vulnerable asylum seekers, including suspected victims of trafficking, are scheduled to be deported this week as the home secretary Priti Patel ramps up removal operations ahead of Brexit.

Three flights this week, two to Germany and one to France, with possible transfers to Austria, Poland, Spain and Lithuania, are planned amid opposition from campaigners who say they have evidence that cases are being “rushed” through to avoid Patel’s own published policy on identifying trafficking victims.

The development comes days after Patel branded those calling for last week’s deportation flight to Jamaica to be stopped as “do-gooding celebrities”, a label that prompted victims of the Windrush scandal to describe the home secretary as “deeply insulting and patronising”.

Source: UK races to deport asylum seekers ahead of Brexit

Wealthy Britons step up citizenship shopping to thwart Brexit

Not surprising:

The number of British entrepreneurs looking to “buy” citizenship from countries offering visa-free access to the European Union has risen sharply, investment migration firms say, as prospects of a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the bloc darken.

Investment immigration firm Astons said it had seen a 50% and 30% year-on-year increase in interest from clients seeking Cypriot or Greek citizenship respectively this quarter, less than four months before UK passport-holders are likely to lose their rights to freedom of movement across the EU.

Henley & Partners also reported a rise in requests for advice on investment migration applications to Malta, Portugal, Austria and several Caribbean islands, which offer a range of residency rights, visa-free travel to the EU and citizenship to investors in local business or property.

Citizens of certain Caribbean sovereign states including St. Lucia and St Kitts & Nevis also enjoy preferred access to the EU, thanks to close ties with EU members as a result of historic, diplomatic and modern trade agreements.

“This isn’t about tourists. This is the UK high net worth community that have a constant need to travel to and spend significant time in the EU,” said Henley & Partners director Paddy Blewer.

“This is investment migration as a volatility hedge and a component in a high net worth portfolio value defence strategy,” he said, adding that volumes of client engagement were higher now than immediately after the 2016 Brexit vote.

Interest in additional citizenships is rising even as the European Commission examines possible steps to curb EU states selling passports and visas to wealthy foreigners, due to concerns it can help organised crime groups.

Cypriot residency can be secured in two months with a 300,000 euro ($351,870) property purchase. Securing citizenship takes six months and requires a minimum property investment of 2 million euros.

Reuters reported in December how some donors to Britain’s ruling Conservative Party had sought Cypriot citizenship including hedge fund manager Alan Howard.

“Both Cypriot and Caribbean investments are proving very popular … primarily driven by high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) from the UK who have an eye on the future and life after Brexit,” said Astons spokesman Konstantin Kaminskiy.


Henley & Partners said its volume of engagement with clients seeking alternative citizenship or residence by investment climbed 40% in the first quarter of 2020 versus Q1 2019, before flattening during the COVID-19 lockdown in Q2.

But interest has rallied since July 1, with a 15% year-on-year increase in engagement to Sept. 10, as the end of the Brexit transition phase nears.

Henley & Partners’ Blewer said clients were increasingly drawn to Caribbean citizenship applications – which is likely to give them better travel access to the EU than Britain – but which have a lower minimum investment and a quicker approval process.

Saint Lucia citizenship, offering visa-free travel to 146 countries, can be obtained in around four months for a minimum investment of 76,152 pounds, data supplied by Astons showed.

For less than 40,000 pounds more, investors can obtain citizenship of St. Kitts & Nevis – and visa-free travel to 156 countries – in around 60 days.

In contrast, Malta offers citizenship in exchange for around 1 million pounds of investment, but the process takes up to 14 months.

Portugal, meanwhile, typically processes investment migration applications in three months but only grants EU residency to investors and visa-fee travel to just 26 countries.

“With HNWIs, time is often more important than what is essentially a small fluctuation in cost and many are looking to secure additional citizenship as fast as possible in the pandemic landscape,” Arthur Sarkisian, managing director of Astons, said.

EU authorities are under pressure to clamp down on investment migration programmes by member states.

Sven Giegold, a member of the European Parliament from Germany’s Green party, said these kind of citizenship sales “posed a serious threat to EU security and the fight against corruption” in the bloc.

“EU passports and visas are not a commodity. Money must not be the criterion for citizenship and residence rights in the EU,” he said.

Source: Wealthy Britons step up citizenship shopping to thwart Brexit

EU immigration: two fifths of firms won’t reallocate roles to Britons

Yet more aftereffects from Brexit:

Nine out of 10 UK businesses believe the recruitment of EU nationals plays an important role in their UK operations, but despite potential losses of EU employees, two fifths of businesses do not plan on reallocating roles to Britons.

According to a report released today by immigration law firm Fragomen, 41% of respondents said they would not replace low-skilled workers with new hires, opting instead to move work overseas, scale down production, do less business in the UK or to automate more. And 39% of employers plan to do the same for high-skilled roles that may be lost to the new immigration system.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU, the UK government is set to overhaul the UK immigration system on 1 January 2021, ending the free movement for European citizens.

Fragomen, which surveyed 502 UK businesses, found that 70% of employers have concerns about the prospect of new immigration policies coming into effect. Only 20% of UK employers fully understand how the new policies will impact their recruitment and less than 60% have offered support to employees in applying for settled status in the UK.

Ian Robinson, partner at Fragomen, said: “We are rapidly moving closer to a new immigration system which will mean huge changes for businesses across the UK, but it is clear that a vast majority of employers are not prepared. The end of free movement for EU citizens is a fundamental change to the UK’s relationship with the EU and businesses will need to rethink how they staff their organisation and run their operations”.

“The report clearly demonstrates businesses are unprepared for the changes, with the IT, hospitality and construction sectors most concerned about new policies. Understandably, the global pandemic has made long-term planning difficult but all business with EU employees need to take immediate steps to assess their business to understand how the new immigration policies will impact their staffing and what the associated costs of the new system will be to your company. There is still time, but employers must act now.”

Despite government efforts to promote the scheme, 22% of UK employers do not know where to find information in order to support their EU employees ahead of the deadline, while three in 10 did not fully understand the cost of the new immigration system.

Fragomen surveyed 502 people working in human resources and global mobility across a range of sectors and company sizes.

There has been some discussion about the UK introducing a Displaced Talent Mobility programme to enable UK employers to sponsor skilled people who are forcibly displaced. Asked what business would do if such a visa was introduced, 73% of employers said they would actively look for or consider opportunities to sponsor candidates from this talent pool.

Marina Brizar, UK director of Talent Beyond Boundaries, which helps displaced people move internationally for work by leveraging their professional, said: “Talent shortages will affect the future of the UK’s economy and society, so developing new and creative solutions to address shortages is essential.

“The globally forcibly displaced population should be part of the solution through Displaced Talent Mobility. It is encouraging that this model is being seriously considered and enthusiastically embraced by the policymakers and the business community.”

Source: EU immigration: two fifths of firms won’t reallocate roles to Britons

Brexit fuels brain drain as skilled Britons head to the EU

Not surprising:

Brexit has sparked an exodus of economically productive people from the UK to European Union nations on a scale that would normally be expected only as a result of a major economic or political crisis, according to a detailed new study.

Using a combination of official statistics across the EU and in-depth interviews with people living in Germany, the study found huge changes in migration patterns of UK citizens since the 2016 referendum, which contrast with largely stable ones among nationals from the 27 EU states remaining in the bloc.

The report, a collaboration between the Oxford in BerlinResearch Partnership – a project made up of Oxford university and four Berlin institutions – and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, also found a “seismic shift” in the number of UK citizens already living abroad who had decided to go a step further by obtaining EU member state passports since 2016, showing how Britain’s vote to leave the EU pushed many individuals into long-term decisions.

Source: Brexit fuels brain drain as skilled Britons head to the EU

Has Brexit affected the way Britons think about immigrants? The recent ‘national mood’ on immigration

Interesting analysis of immigration-related public opinion data and Brexit:

Back in 2018, I wrote a piece showing how British public opinion on immigration had changed since the 1980s by analysing responses across waves of repeated, high-quality research surveys carried out in Britain. Then, the research showed that British opinions toward immigrants and immigration had been softening dramatically over the last decade since a peak in public hostility around 2010.

Recently I was able to update this information with a plethora of new results from the British Election Study (BES), the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, and the European Social Survey (ESS) which were fielded over the past two years. Figure 1 below shows what has changed since then, and how the new information has impacted the model’s estimation of the ‘national mood’ about immigration.

The line represents the proportion of survey respondents in each year answering negatively when faced with questions regarding their views on immigrants and immigration. The grey line running through the middle of the plot cuts the y-axis at 50% – half of the population having negative feelings toward immigration, with the other 50% holding a more positive perspective. The aggregation is carried out using Jim Stimson’s dyad-ratios calculator, which is able to standardise different survey measurements on the same topic. From this, individual survey items can be ‘blended together’ into a single series, such as above. (The code to run Stimson’s calculator in R can be found on my GitHub repository).

What the updated data shows is that the dramatic decline in anti-immigrant sentiments, which had reached a peak (in the study) around 2010, has continued up to the conclusion of the decade. According to the data analysed in this study, a majority of the British public now have positive views toward immigrants and immigration.

When I posted these results on Twitter, they became the subject of quite some discussion among various Brexit tribes (bot supporting and against), with much conversation surrounding the impact that Brexit (and specifically, the campaign) may or may not have had on feelings toward immigrants in this country. It is toward this debate that I wish to turn the rest of the article – namely, did Brexit cause an increase in anti-immigrant hostility in Britain?

Firstly, the evidence is quite clear that neither the Brexit campaign nor Brexit itself has caused any increase in negativity or hostility toward immigrants or immigration in the aggregate sense. There is nothing in the public opinion data, presented here or indeed elsewhere, that I have seen which would support the hypothesis that Brexit has unleashed some kind of wave of anti-immigrant hostility when we look at the nation as a whole.

However, the emphasis above is intended and important. There is nothing to say that just because aggregate levels of hostility toward immigration among the British public have declined, that there could not have been a simultaneous hardening or strengthening of negativity since Brexit among those with deep-rooted, very hostile opinions about foreigners in Britain. Both of these things could be true. Similarly, this measurement is not one of racism, or individual experiences/incidents of racism or indeed discrimination on the grounds of immigrant (origin) status.

Finally, Brexit might not have caused a rise in aggregate anti-immigrant hostility, but there is also little evidence to suggest that it caused this drop. For one, attitudes have been softening since 2010, and Brexit comes right in the middle of this near-linear decline. That said, the rate of decline has clearly accelerated since 2016, so perhaps there is some merit in the suggestion the Brexit vote may have ‘released some frustration’ regarding policy/control over matters of immigration among the population.

Inspecting the quarterly data also gives us some further, more nuanced insight into what the various narratives around Brexit might have done to attitudes surrounding immigrants and immigration. Figure 2 shows a more detailed snapshot of Figure 1, with 100 survey items analysed from 2009 to 2019.

Note: the mean level of sentiment here has shifted downward from in Figure 1, where the series included here and other series stretching back further into time anchor the overall trend line around 5-10% higher.

Here we see in greater detail the average decline in negativity from the turn of the last decade, with the peak around 2010 followed by something more resembling a jagged mountain face than a cliff edge. The sharp, short-term peaks in anti-immigrant mood as we travel down the ten-year slope are seemingly clustered around important electoral events surrounding Brexit: the 2014 European Elections won by UKIP, the build-up to the referendum itself in 2016, the General Election in 2017 where Theresa May sought a parliamentary majority for her Brexit plan, and then the 2019 election campaign featuring Boris Johnson’s pledge to “get Brexit done”.

Are these moments of intense scrutiny and pressure on Brexit producing these little sparks of negativity among the British public? It seems reasonable to think so – around these moments, media coverage and political commentary around immigration (specifically in relation to the EU) intensifies, parties actively campaign against the current immigration regime, and voters may be connecting immigration closer to their voting intention than they otherwise might, and respond to survey questions accordingly.

Whatever the case, what is certain is that these moments of upturn in the data do not last long. Once the moment passes, the decline in negativity continues – and even arguably picks up pace. Furthermore, given that margins of error apply to these aggregated figures just as much as they do to individual polls, the various quarterly spikes within the last ten years could just be statistical noise.

So, did Brexit cause an increase in anti-immigrant hostility in Britain? There is little evidence in the public opinion data analysed here to suggest that it did – particularly in the medium term. Did it, on the other hand, cause a big increase in positivity? Again, I would argue that it did not. Brexit has coincided with a plummet in British negativity about immigration, the start of which proceeded Boris Johnson’s successful attempt to pass a Brexit deal through the Commons, the referendum itself, and Nigel Farage’s electoral successes in the early 2010s.

In short, I would say that Brexit has not much at all to do with what Britons think about immigration.

Source: Has Brexit affected the way Britons think about immigrants? The recent ‘national mood’ on immigration

Sadiq Khan urges EU to offer Britons ‘associate citizenship’

Not sure how this would work or the likelihood of the EU agreeing:

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will use a trip to Brussels to implore EU negotiators to be open to continued free movement for Britons through “associate citizenship”.

With the backing of the former prime minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt, Khan said the offer of such rights to those who wish to retain them should be at “the heart” of the coming negotiations over the future relationship.

The idea of “associate citizenship was first raised in late 2016 by Verhofstadt, who was then the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator.

The offer would be of continued freedom of movement and residence around the bloc for those who wished to retain such rights. Such a status would also protect rights in healthcare, welfare and workplace conditions and likely the right to vote in European parliament elections.

The chances of such an initiative making headway in the negotiations are extremely limited as it would be unlawful under EU legislation.

There is unlikely to be appetite for any rewriting of treaties among the 27 member states, given the UK government’s hostile attitude to the free movement of EU nationals who wish to live and work in Britain.

Khan, who will also meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the European parliament’s president, David Sassoli, during his visit on Tuesday, said he believed the idea still had merit.

“Like so many Londoners, I am heartbroken that we are no longer a member of the European Union, but that doesn’t mean our country’s future can’t be closely linked with the rest of Europe,” he said.

“The prime minister says his job is to bring the country together and move us forward and I cannot think of a better way of reconciling the differences between British voters who wanted to leave, and the millions of Londoners and British nationals who still feel and want to be European.”

Khan added: “There would be support from millions of Londoners and British nationals who are devastated they are losing their rights as EU citizens. As the UK and EU start their next phase of negotiations, I want this issue of associate citizenship to be at the heart of talks about our future relationship.”

Attempts by UK nationals in EU member states to argue in the courts that the loss of citizenship and its associated rights was a disproportionate and unjust consequence of Brexit have all failed.

Verhofstadt, who has the backing of the European parliament to be chair of a new conference on the future of Europe involving all the EU institutions, said he believed that Brussels should be open to the concept.

“The Maastricht treaty created the concept of ‘European citizenship’ and I am in favour of using this now as a basis for people who want to keep their link with Europe,” he said. “It is the first time in the history of our union that a member state leaves, but it is not because the UK government wanted exit that individual citizens have to lose their connection with the continent.”

Source: Sadiq Khan urges EU to offer Britons ‘associate citizenship’