Sadiq Khan has renewed his criticism of the UK government’s attitude to non-UK European Union citizens living in London and said he relishes the prospect of debating Brexit and its implications for the capital with his Conservative challenger in the 2020 London Mayor election campaign.
Speaking at his monthly Mayor’s Question Time session (MQT) at City Hall today, Mayor Khan said that Londoners from other EU countries are “scared to to go the Home Office or UK Border Agency” for advice about their status when and if Brexit takes place having seen the treatment of the Windrush Generation and their descendants in the context of UK immigration policy.
The Mayor described his Tory mayoral challenger Shaun Bailey and the rest of the eight-strong Conservative Group on the London Assembly as sharing the opinion of David Kurten of the Assembly’s Brexit Alliance Group that a “Brexit will be a fantastic thing for this country,” ideally on a “no deal” basis. Kurten was elected to the Assembly as a member of UKIP, but recently left the party. Khan said that Bailey has described Brexit as “a fantastic opportunity”.
The Tory mayoral candidate, who did not contribute to today’s discussion of Brexit, was reported in September on securing his nomination to have said he is “not a Brexiteer in that crazy sense of, ‘let’s just leave'”. In July, he wrote in the Jamaica Observer that he was “excited” that the British public was “brave enough” to believe there was “bright future” outside the EU and that, “By improving our relationship with the Commonwealth, we will create a fantastic opportunity for countries like Jamaica” to play a bigger part on “the global stage”.
London’s population of nearly nine million people includes approximately one million who are citizens of other EU nations, of whom roughly 600,000 are employed in the capital, largely in its construction and hospitality sectors along with the NHS and the tech industry.
At MQT Labour AM Joanne McCartney said she had learned from a body representing East Europeans that people seeking settled status are being told they will be expected to provide “documentary evidence of every month of their previous five years living here,” such as tenancy documents or formal employment contracts with many will not possess.
Mayor Khan, who said he had discussed such issues with a Portuguese minister at a meeting yesterday, said it was imperative to make sure EU nationals “are welcome in our city” and that national government “has got to recognise some of the concerns people have” in the context of controversy over the government’s “hostile environment” policy.
He recommended City Hall’s EU Londoners Hub as “a safe environment” for them to find information and said they should be able to vote in any second referendum in a widening of the franchise to also include 16 and 17-year-olds. The Mayor said in December that the Greater London Authority will pay the £65 fee “settled status” application fee for all of its staff and those of Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police affected by it.