Priti Patel has been accused of hypocrisy after she hit out at the EU for denying UK nationals access to benefits and services on the continent.
The home secretary sounded the alarm over reports of Brits being “asked for residence documents they do not need to hold, being prevented from accessing benefits and services, and having trouble with their right to work” in an article for The Daily Telegraph.
She urged EU nations to fulfil their obligations towards UK nationals “just as the UK has done for EU citizens in the UK”, prompting outrage from campaigners and opposition politicians who urged her to get her “own house in order”.
And Patel claimed the UK’s controversial EU settlement scheme (EUSS), which closes to applicants next week, had been a “success”.
That view is not shared by campaigners. Dr Dora-Olivia Vicol, co-founder and director of the charity the Work Rights Centre, told The Independent that the experiences highlighted by the home secretary “mirror the exclusions experienced by EU nationals in the UK”.
She said: “To some extent, this is due to employers’ misunderstanding of the EUSS, and particularly of how to check the status of EU nationals whose applications are still being considered.
“But the Home Office can do more to process the backlog, and to moderate employers’ instinct to reject job applicants and staff who are waiting on an EUSS decision. Furthermore, we should remember that thousands of EU nationals with pre-settled status are currently being denied Universal Credit, despite the assurances made years ago.”
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael added: “British citizens in the EU have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for five years. The Liberal Democrats and others have consistently urged the Government to prioritise protections for these Brits, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
“Having failed to secure the full rights of Brits in Europe, it is rich for Priti Patel to now lecture EU countries, while she is inflicting so much anxiety and uncertainty on EU citizens here in the UK.
“She and Boris Johnson promised EU citizens that their rights would be protected, but they have broken that promise. Hundreds of thousands are still waiting for the Home Office to tell them if they can stay beyond the end of the month, and even those who have been granted settled status are being denied the physical proof they need.
“Instead of empty whining about what EU countries are doing, the home secretary should get her own house in order. She must honour her promise to EU citizens by removing her arbitrary deadline and giving them the automatic right to stay, with physical proof.”