The right of British nationals to work, study, vote or retire in EU countries has been taken away. The automatic right to bring EU family members over to the UK, married partner, parents, siblings or others without a British passport, has been taken away. The right to send parcels to Europe without worrying about customs duties and extra declarative paperwork has been taken away, both to the EU and probably also when sending to Northern Ireland. The right to transfer money from your UK account to your EU account or vice versa, without having to pay for the privilege, has been taken away.
This is all due to crashing out of the EU without a reasonable deal – oven-ready or not. Leaving the single market without a reasonable trade deal is causing a lot of extra paperwork, costing a lot of money, and causing a lot of businesses to stop trade altogether which means less choice in the shops.
- Any UK national living in the UK
As decided in the Elections Act 2022, from May 2023 it will only be possible to vote in local, parliamentary or police/crime commissioner elections if you can present valid picture ID. No ID, no voting card, no vote. This is said to be to reduce electoral fraud. But is electoral fraud a problem?
In 2021 over 46 million people were registered to vote. Some 315 cases of suspected electoral fraud were registered and only 124 were investigated, as in the other cases the police found no reason even to investigate. So electoral impersonation or fraud does not seem a major problem. What will this act achieve?
Many people will be caught out, either having forgotten to bring their ID or simply not possessing a picture ID. It will (should) be possible to apply for a free voter card where the council provides picture ID. But how many people will know and do this? So for many, voting will become too much of a hassle or even impossible, and the poorest will be the worst affected.
- UK national living in the EU
UK nationals living in EU countries have lost the right to stand or vote for municipal or European elections, except in those countries that have a reciprocal agreement with the UK (Austria, Portugal, Spain and Poland).
- EU nationals in England
Under the withdrawal agreement, those EU nationals present before 31 December 2020 will retain the rights they have, which means they will still be able to vote in the local elections (but not parliamentary elections!). Any EU national who settles in the UK after that will not have the right to vote, not even in the local elections, unless the UK has a reciprocal agreement with the EU country in question. Spain, Luxembourg, Portugal and Poland have signed such an agreement. Irish nationals will keep their right to vote in the local and parliamentary elections.
- Foreign nationals in Wales and Scotland
All those legally resident in Wales or Scotland (not just EU nationals) will have the right to vote, no matter where they are a national, both in the local elections and the devolved parliamentary elections. In Wales foreign nationals are not allowed to vote in police commissioner elections.
- Commonwealth including Ireland, Malta and Cyprus
Any Commonwealth nationals legally resident in the UK will have the same voting rights as British nationals.
Right to protest
And if you think you can stage a peaceful protest against any of these changes, it may bring you into trouble as well, similar to the problems Steve Bray encountered.
While Britain allows dual citizenship, British citizenship can be taken away without notice if the holder has another (possible) nationality. Children born in the UK who have a British passport but non-British parents can have that passport taken away at the decision of the Home Office, without being informed if the Home Office doesn’t know how to contact them, without being able to explain themselves or object at the time the decision is taken.
As long as the Home Office assumes they are entitled to another nationality through a parent’s bloodline, a British passport is now no longer forever.
Right to apply for asylum
While this right is not expected to be necessary in practical terms for GB nationals, nationals from other countries have lost the right to apply for asylum in UK. A person has to be physically present in the country they apply asylum to, so it is not possible to apply from abroad.
So those who have family here or already know the language and want a chance to settle in the safety of the UK have to come to the UK in order to apply for asylum. But the new Borders Law means that if people have set foot on land elsewhere first, in a ‘safe country’, their claim will automatically be rejected.
Chances are high that the asylum seeker will be deported to what the government sees as ‘a safe country’, and Rwanda has been picked for this by the present home secretary Priti Patel, a country with questionable human rights according to Amnesty International. The United Nations Refugee Council specifically forbids sending refugees to unsafe countries, a convention signed by the UK in 1951.
The right to interfere when a person is in a dangerous situation
It sounds so basic, doesn’t it? You see someone in a dangerous situation, you can save their life without serious risk to yourself … of course you help that person, rather than having their demise on your conscience.
You would expect a law to say you must help, rather than the opposite. In fact, international law states you have a duty to attempt a rescue if you see someone in danger of drowning at sea. But the government plans to make the law say you have to turn people back if they are in a non-sea-worthy boat in the Channel tunnel, rather than helping them onto a safer boat or ship and preventing a potential disaster.
Sending a refugee boat back to the country it set off from, even if it’s an inflatable dinghy in rough waters? So called ‘push-backs’ can be extremely dangerous for the people on the boat, but the government wants to make any other course of action an offence.
The list is endless. The important message is: YOU are losing your rights, one by one.
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