Family members excluded from UK pilot.
A UK-wide pilot scheme to allow EU nationals to remain in the UK after Brexit must be extended to family members, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said.
In a joint letter with her Welsh Government counterpart Vaughan Gething, Ms Freeman has written to Minister of State for Immigration Caroline Nokes urging a rethink on the policy.
The pilot will give health and social care workers, and university staff, the chance to apply for settled status before the date the UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019. However, family members cannot be included, and will have to wait to a later date to have their status confirmed.
In their letter, Ms Freeman and Mr Gething have offered to host a pilot in Scotland and Wales in which family members can be included in the scheme.
The Scottish Government has committed to seek to meet the fee for settled status applications for EU citizens working in the devolved public sector in Scotland.
The Settlement pilot begins on 29 November.
Full text of letter follows:
Rt. Hon. Caroline Nokes MP
Minister of State for Immigration
We write jointly in response to the recent inter-ministerial correspondence about the next private beta phase of your EU Settlement Scheme.
As we have made clear, the primary benefits and advantages of the scheme from our perspective as Health Ministers was its potential to help remove some of the uncertainty for EU staff at this unsettling time and to send a clear signal of how much we value the contribution they make to health and social care services across the UK. We are therefore disappointed to hear that the Home Office is unable to agree to our request to include family members in the scheme. We reiterate our view that the scheme as currently proposed is much more likely to deter, rather than to encourage, our EU staff from taking this opportunity to clarify their immigration status ahead of the UK leaving the EU on 29 March 2019.
We ask that you reconsider your decision not to include family members in the scheme. We firmly believe that the potential benefits of including family members far outweighs the administrative difficulties you cite in your letter of 2 October for not including them. If you are amenable, and if your concerns are mainly about making the pilot cohort too large to manage, then we would be content to pilot the inclusion of family members in Scotland and Wales.
If you are not able to agree to this, we would not feel comfortable actively promoting the scheme to health and social care staff in Wales and Scotland, although it is not our intention to oppose, or in any way to obstruct, the smooth operation of the scheme across the UK. We are also very concerned by the lack of meaningful engagement with our ministerial colleagues at the Department of Health and Social Care on the wide range of challenges facing the NHS across UK that flow directly from Brexit. Earlier ministerial engagement would have provided a more timely opportunity to discuss and agree matters such as including family members in the settlement scheme while still in its planning stages.
We are copying this letter to Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in England, and to David Sterling at the Northern Ireland Executive.
Jeane Freeman MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport
Vaughan Gething AC/AM
Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Iechyd
a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services