Council steps up support for residents and staff in the run up to Brexit

Brexit campaign - Mayor John Biggs 01

As the countdown to the UK’s departure from the EU enters its final weeks, Tower Hamlets Council has launched a reassurance campaign to support non-UK EU citizens living in the borough, as well as its own staff, who are facing the daily uncertainty of Brexit.

The council’s Brexit Commission has been working since August to prepare the borough for life after the UK leaves the EU. It has taken soundings and evidence from key sectors of the Tower Hamlets economy including business, organisations that deliver public services and the voluntary sector.

More than one in seven residents in Tower Hamlets, around 41,000 people, are citizens of EU countries other than the UK. They play a valued role in one of the country’s most diverse and inclusive communities.

Mayor John Biggs said:  “I am proud that as a council, we are on the side of our EU staff and residents.

“Our Brexit Commission has had the 41,000 residents from the EU at its heart; they contribute a great deal to our organisation and our communities.

“This is their borough and we will continue to support them however we can.”

Evidence from EU citizens given to the Brexit Commission highlighted the uncertainty and fear that has been caused by confusion about how parliamentarians will ultimately decide to move forward in the coming weeks and months.

In an effort to calm those nerves and offer certainty and reassurance to those living and working in Tower Hamlets, the council has unveiled a campaign on street advertising sites and council vehicles across the borough, directing non-UK EU citizens to a new Brexit toolkit at www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/EU

The central theme of the campaign is a clear message to non-UK EU citizens that ‘this is your home too.’

The online toolkit provides comprehensive advice and guidance on what steps people need to be taking to secure their right to continue living and working here after Brexit. It includes detailed FAQs that have been compiled in partnership with specialist immigration lawyers from Seraphus.

In addition to its new public-facing campaign, the council also wrote to all its employees last week to confirm that any member of staff required to apply for settled status to protect their employment and residency rights as a result of Brexit would have the cost of their application covered in full.

Since that email, the Prime Minister has confirmed that the Government will now not be charging an application fee. Her decision follows the lead taken by organisations such as Tower Hamlets Council.

Cllr Amina Ali, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Brexit and Chair of the Tower Hamlets Brexit Commission, said: “We are committed to providing whatever support we can to our EU residents and staff.

“They make a crucial contribution to the borough and we value them immensely.”

Last year dozens of Tower Hamlets residents attended Brexit advice and information sessions both in the council and across the borough. A key concern for many was the Government’s EU Settlement Scheme. This is the system through which non-UK EU citizens already living in the UK will be able to apply for and acquire settled status. It will open for applications in March 2019.

Anyone wishing to continue living and working in the UK beyond December 2020 will need to have settled status. This applies to those with 'indefinite leave to remain' and 'permanent residency' too, but not to those who have already secured British citizenship.

Posted on Monday 21st January 2019