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Tory plan for Brexit is a threat to ­two million EU migrants

This article is over 4 years, 6 months old
Whether you voted Leave or Remain, we should all defend migrants’ rights writes Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue 2668
Defend migrants rights - in or out of Europe
Defend migrants’ rights – in or out of Europe (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Tory divisions were inflamed by the leak of a “top secret” Brexit planning document last Saturday.

Allies of Boris Johnson blamed a group of former ministers for leaking the dossier, named Operation Yellowhammer.

It details how the Tory govermment would “manage short-term disruption” to supplies if Britain leaves the European Union (EU) without a deal on 31 October.

The Tory former ministers, led by chancellor Philip Hammond, want to stop a no-deal Brexit.

They echo big business demands to stay within the EU’s single market because its free market rules protect profits.

Tory right wingers see the potential shock of a no-deal Brexit as an opportunity to push through more racist scapegoating.

Home secretary Priti Patel said the government would end free ­movement on 1 November, the day after a no-deal Brexit would go through.

The plan would mean imposing a new immigration system in nine weeks’ time.

This would make the hostile environment even worse for migrants.

The government last week said that EU migrants would have to pass residency tests to receive free NHS care under a no-deal Brexit.

This wouldn’t just affect new migrants from the EU.

Of the over three million EU migrants already living in Britain, at least two million do not yet have the legal right to remain under the registration scheme.

Hundreds of thousands face the prospect of legal limbo in a no-deal Brexit.


The government has quietly brought forward the deadline for applying for the EU Settlement Scheme to 31 December 2020.

Home Office figures published last week showed a backlog of over 100,000 applications.

The EU Settlement Scheme does not guarantee migrants’ rights in law.

It was brought in as a piece of “secondary legislation”, meaning the Tories could change it without a parliamentary vote.

Only 64 percent of the one million were given “settled status”, according to the Home Office statistics.

Some 36 percent were given “pre-settled status” with fewer rights because they had not lived in Britain for over five years.

The choices put forward by the government will all be bad for workers and migrants’ rights as long as they are based on Tory policies of austerity and racism.

The Labour Party has focused on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on big business.

It has not emphasised demands to protect workers’ and migrants’ rights.

Its immigration policy involves dumping freedom of movement and introducing a “skills-based immigration system”.

This increases division among workers, giving ground to the myth that some migrants drive down wages.

Any form of division in the ­working class makes it harder to resist the Tories and bosses’ attacks.

Anti-racists—whether they voted Leave or Remain—have to fight to defend and extend freedom of movement.

EU borders cause almost 1,000 migrant deaths

Over 800 refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea between January and August, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The majority of the 843 deaths—578—took place in the central Mediterranean between Libya and Italy.

This is the deadliest route for refugees trying to make it to safety in Europe.

Successive clampdowns by the European Union (EU) and its member states have shut off safer ones. And now the Italian route could become deadlier still.

Italy’s far right interior minister Matteo Salvini has pushed through a law that levies huge fines on search and rescue boats.

Captains can be fined £920,000 if they dock in an Italian port without permission.

The will deter charities from running rescue missions.

Meanwhile, the EU is spending £95 million on surveillance drones that can inform the Libyan coast guards of refugee boats’ position.

Guards will take refugees back to North Africa, where they face slave auctions, sexual abuse and torture.

Refugees are fleeing war, dictatorship, poverty and climate change—the only solution is to open the border and let them in.

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