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IMA survey identifies significant lack of trust and confidence in public bodies post Brexit

Published: 12 May, 2021

A lack of trust in UK public bodies by resident European citizens has been identified by the first survey of EU citizens by the Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA). The results come in the week that marks 50 days to go until the closure of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

EU and EEA EFTA citizens living in the UK and Gibraltar have until 30 June 2021 to apply to the Home Office to remain in the country under the EUSS. If they do not secure settled or pre-settled status, they could be classed as living in the UK unlawfully.

The survey, which is the first of its kind to take place after Brexit saw almost 3,000 respondents from EU and EEA EFTA nations (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) take part.

While the majority of respondents felt that they were treated equally the survey identified a range of concerns including mixed awareness about their rights and lack of confidence in them.

The survey identified that:

• 1 in 4 respondents do not feel they are treated equally to UK citizens;
• 1 in 2 are not aware of their citizens’ rights; and
• 1 in 10 are considering leaving the UK after 30 June.

While a lack of confidence in their citizens’ rights being upheld revealed that:

• 30% of respondents are not confident their citizens’ rights will be upheld by public bodies;
• 1 in 2 are not confident in at least one of their rights;
• 1 in 25 already believe their rights have been breached: and
• 1 in 10 wouldn’t complain about a breach of their rights.

The reasons for the lack of confidence were cited as being a lack of trust in the government (31%); the impact and negativity associated with the Brexit process (11%); a hostile environment (9%) and fears over another Windrush-type scandal (7%). While 10% said the physical nature of their status under the EU Settlement Scheme was already leading to a discrimination of EU citizens.

The IMA’s findings were consistent across the diverse range of respondents with a lack of trust reported across all demographics.

Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, IMA Chief Executive said:

“We undertook our first survey because we were keen to understand the experience of EU citizens living in the UK and Gibraltar since Brexit. We were also particularly interested to understand awareness of the EU Settlement Scheme and whether citizens knew what they needed to do to continue to live, work and raise their families in the UK and Gibraltar. The results give us an important insight into how citizens are feeling since the UK left the EU.

“It’s clear that there are issues of trust for EU citizens after the grace period for applications to the Settlement Scheme ends on 30 June and there is a real need for public authorities of all types to take action to build this trust through their actions and by also recognising the role they play in promoting citizens’ rights in legislation, policy and practice. We will continue to engage, challenge and work with public bodies to make sure they understand these rights.

“As an organisation, we are also keen to do all we can to instil confidence in citizens that their voices will be heard. Our complaints portal is open for EU and EEA EFTA nationals to report a breach of their rights and we are currently recruiting for a panel of EU citizens to provide feedback on our work.

“Knowing how Brexit is impacting on the daily lives of citizens is really important to us and I would ask anyone who thinks they have experienced a breach of their rights to contact us so we can help to resolve the systemic issues which impact large numbers of the European community in the UK and Gibraltar.”

More information about the complaints portal can be found on the IMA’s website.

The full results of the survey report can be downloaded from the publications page.