The rights of millions of citizens from European communities who continue to live and work in the UK and Gibraltar will now be protected by the Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA), launched at 11pm today.
The IMA will monitor UK public bodies to make sure they are upholding the rights of citizens. It will review complaints and has powers to launch inquiries and take legal action.
Citizens will have broadly the same rights as before Brexit, if they were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 and if they register with the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021. The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU broadly covers four areas:
- Residency – The right to live in the UK and Gibraltar.
- Workers and self-employed – The right to work in the UK, including self-employed people, and frontier workers who live in the EU but work in the UK.
- Recognition of professional qualifications – The right for specified EU professionals, such as doctors, nurses and architects, to be recognised in the UK, if they have registered their qualifications by 31 December 2020.
- Social Security – The right to access housing, healthcare, education, benefits and other state services.
The right to equal treatment and the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of nationality apply to all these rights. Reciprocal arrangements are in place for UK citizens resident in EU and EEA EFTA countries.
The IMA will work closely with governments and parliaments in the UK and Gibraltar, as well as with advocacy groups, charities and regulatory bodies to reach as many citizens as possible and inform them of its role. Citizens’ complaints and intelligence received from representatives will play a crucial role in shining a light on the issues that most affect people’s daily lives.
Sir Ashley Fox, Chairman of the IMA said:
“People from the EU should have confidence to get on with their lives – safeguards are in place to protect them. The IMA provides an extra level of assurance, on top of existing tribunal and ombudsman services, to expose and challenge patterns of discrimination. I’m proud we’re doing our bit to uphold the UK’s commitments to its citizens from the EU.”
Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, IMA Interim CEO said:
“Implementing rights won’t always be straightforward. Even well-meaning organisations may make mistakes or interpret law differently – that’s why a monitoring authority, independent of government, is essential.
“It’s my hope that most issues can be resolved quickly through working with public bodies. We will, however, use our legal powers whenever necessary to ensure the rights of citizens affected by the Withdrawal Agreement are being upheld.”
The IMA exists to tackle systemic issues, practices and behaviours that cause widespread or persistent infringements of rights, for the benefit of the whole EU community in the UK. This includes people who come from the 27 EU Member States as well as the EEA EFTA countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Citizens’ complaints and intelligence received from representatives will play a crucial role in shining a light on the issues that most affect people’s daily lives. Inquiry reports will be published and annual reports made to Parliament via the Secretary of State for Justice.
The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford estimates that there are around 3.6 million EU-born migrants living in the UK, making up 5.5% of the UK population. Poland is the top country of birth among those from the EU, followed by Romania and Ireland. ONS figures reveal the UK local authority areas with the highest numbers of EU nationals include London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.