THE UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is causing significant problems for EU citizens currently living and working in Wales.
LOW REGISTRATION IN WALES
Wales has the lowest rates of registration in the UK.
Only 41% of those eligible to apply for EUSS to stay in Wales after Brexit have done so.
The rhetoric surrounding EU migration since the referendum has taken its toll on people’s emotional wellbeing, meaning they no longer feel welcome to live here.
The UK Government has proposed a £30,000 salary threshold for EU residents to qualify for a work visa after Brexit. This could damage the Welsh economy and leave Wales short of key health professionals, say Welsh employers.
The National Assembly for Wales’ External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee, which focuses on the implications of Brexit for Wales, is today publishing a report looking at the impact of changes to ‘freedom of movement’ after Brexit. As well as the impact on services and employers, the Committee has looked at the effect on individual EU citizens currently living and working in Wales – there are currently an estimated 80,000.
The Committee heard evidence from a range of health professionals, employers and individuals who would be affected by the proposals to change the immigration system after Brexit.
Organisations representing employers and key workers including the Welsh NHS Confederation, the Royal College of Nursing Wales, Airbus, Universities Wales, Wales TUC and the Arts Council for Wales have voiced serious concerns to the Committee. The UK Government’s proposals for EU citizens after Brexit cause concern to health services and businesses. Under the UK Government’s proposals almost two-thirds of EU workers currently in Wales would not be eligible under the proposed system with the £30,000 salary threshold, and the threshold would lead to a 57% reduction in EU immigration to Wales over 10 years.
EU SETTLEMENT SCHEME – DIGITAL BY DEFAULT
As part of the Committee’s inquiry, it heard evidence from people directly affected by the changes to freedom of movement after Brexit.
The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) was established by the UK Government because, in most cases, EU citizens living in the UK will no longer have a legal right to reside in the UK once it leaves the EU and free movement ends.
EU citizens living in the UK must register for the EUSS.
The Committee heard many concerns about the system to register. The UK Government has adopted a ‘digital by default’ approach and there have been issues with the technology. The current system only allows the use of Android phones or tablets, not iPhones.
£30,000 THRESHOLD – TOO HIGH FOR WALES
The Welsh NHS Confederation, the membership body representing all NHS organisations in Wales, told the Committee that the proposals to include EU citizens in its £30,000 salary threshold for a visa would “exacerbate current staffing shortages”. It highlighted that 53% of EU NHS staff currently earn below that.
The Bevan Foundation highlighted that the average salary in Wales for full-time workers is £26,000, significantly below the proposed threshold. Airbus, a large employer in Wales, added that the threshold is “too high for key sectors” which could have implications for many services and industries. They argued that the proposals from the UK Government could “leave gaps in the requirements of Wales which can’t be filled in the short term.”
The Committee believes that a salary threshold set at this level will not meet the needs and requirements of the Welsh economy. It is calling on the UK Government to lower the salary threshold requirements and is recommending that the Welsh Government uses all the means at its disposal to ensure that the currently proposed salary threshold is reduced.
The Committee heard evidence from people affected directly and how many people felt that they were no longer welcome in the UK following the EU referendum.
Some argued that the policy pursued by the UK Government since the referendum has exacerbated this.
Several people said that some of the rhetoric relating to the issue of EU migration had hardened and described the toll that this had had on their emotional wellbeing, and that of friends and family members.
One participant emphasised that it is not simply an administrative process, but that real people are involved and that it was important to remember how the process affects them.
Michal Poreba from Swansea, an EU citizen originally from Poland, who gave evidence to the Committee’s inquiry, said: “The EU settlement scheme and the UK Government’s immigration proposals after Brexit are not simply about administrative processes, they are about people’s lives. Real people are involved and it is important to consider how the process affects them and their families. Yet the debate appears to be all about the practicalities of the implementation.
“Questions are asked why so few people have registered so far and how to increase the uptake. But what does it offer? Why would anybody apply? The facts are that the scheme significantly reduces the rights of the applicants. Going through the process, while technically quite easy and straightforward, feels debilitating and comes with no legal guarantees. It feels like an act of political self-harm. No wonder there are no queues to do it.
“The message repeated by politicians appears to be the same – You will be allowed to stay. We want you to stay. Of course, economically speaking they need us to stay, at least for the short term. But there is a big difference between being allowed to stay, and being welcomed. There is a big difference between a legal right and permission.”
SHORTAGE OCCUPATION LIST
Wales has specific needs. The Shortage Occupation List is an official list of occupations for which there are not enough resident workers (including EU nationals) to fill vacancies. The UK list is supplemented by a separate list for Scotland.
The majority of those who gave evidence to the Committee supported the creation of a Wales-specific Shortage Occupation List to meet the specific needs of Wales. The Committee is calling on the UK Government to establish this, which the Welsh Government would be able to amend according to Welsh needs.
David Rees AM, Chair of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee said: “We have significant concerns about the implications of Brexit on our workforce in Wales. The ending of freedom of movement will have consequences for business and our economy if we lose vital workers. What’s more worrying is the impact that the loss of EU citizens could have on our NHS. We rely on EU citizens who work as nurses and carers.
“We heard some very concerning and emotional evidence from EU citizens and their families living and working in Wales. We must not forget the human impact that the ending of freedom of movement will have.
“We are calling on the Welsh Government to do all it can to get the UK Government to reduce its proposed salary threshold of £30,000 in order to better reflect average earnings here in Wales. Under these proposals, almost two-thirds of EU workers currently in Wales would not be eligible to live here. This could mean that we would not be able to recruit key workers such as nurses and carers from abroad.
“The EU Settlement Scheme for those who already live and work in Wales is full of problems, with an online-only application process and limited access on smartphones, these problems must be addressed urgently.
“Wales’ economy has specific needs and changing demographics within Wales, including an ageing population, are likely to pose new challenges in the future. These challenges within the economy of Wales are likely to be exacerbated by an overly restrictive immigration regime after Brexit.
“Today we’re calling on the Welsh Government to show real leadership and send out a strong message that EU citizens are welcome, valued, and needed in Wales and we’re calling on the UK Government to rethink its proposals and take into account the needs of the Welsh economy and public services.”
Committee queries WG priorities
A SENEDD Committee has questioned the legislative priorities of the Welsh Government on animal welfare.
The majority of members of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee support
A proposal from the Welsh Government to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Wales. However, the Committee has questioned why a ban on the practice should be prioritised over a range of pressing animal welfare issues, such as ‘puppy farming’.
Despite a series of scandals regarding the activities of licensed and unlicensed dog-breeders over many years, the Welsh Government has failed to take any action to curb puppy-farming and cut the amount of funding available to local authorities to enforce the existing law on dog breeding. By comparison, circuses are ‘a soft target’ for legislation, as so few perform in Wales.
Currently there no Welsh circuses with wild animals in operation but circuses from other countries do visit and can legally use wild animals in their acts.
The ban will affect only two UK travelling circuses which own a total of 19 wild animals.
The Bill applies only to wild, not domesticated, animals; it applies to travelling, but not static, circuses. Animals exhibited for entertainment purposes in settings other than travelling circuses will not be banned but will be regulated.
The Committee says it is unanimous in its continued support for the welfare of all animals but had not been able to come to a unanimous view on whether this Bill should proceed. As the majority of Committee members supported the Bill, it would recommend that the Assembly agrees the general principles of the Bill.
In its scrutiny of the proposed legislation, the Committee held a public consultation as well as hearing evidence from circuses, animal welfare organisations and the Welsh Government.
Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, Mike Hedges AM said: “The use of wild animals in travelling circuses is an emotive issue. The Committee heard compelling arguments from both sides of the debate about the rights and wrongs of this practice.
“The fact that the Welsh Government has introduced the Bill on ethical grounds has raised some challenging questions, such as why is it ethically acceptable for wild animals to perform in other settings but not in circuses? Why is it ethically acceptable for domesticated animals to perform in circuses? Should any animal be expected to perform purely for entertainment?
“The Welsh Government has yet to answer some of these questions. We expect it to do so if the Bill progresses. While the Committee’s view on whether the Bill should proceed is not unanimous, a majority of Members support the Bill.”
Locals praise new cash machine in Llandovery
COUNTY Councillor for Llandovery, Handel Davies has praised the work of Mr & Mrs John and Laura Morgan who have installed a new cash machine at the Post Office in Llandovery.
The couple opened the new ‘Ystrad at The Bank’ post office in Llandovery in November last year following the closure of the former Post Office earlier in 2018.
Then in June of this year, Barclays Bank dropped another bombshell on the town when they announced the closure of the last remaining bank in the town and with it went the 24/7 cashpoint (ATM) facility.
The newly opened cash machine will provide a 24/7 service.
Plaid Cymru County Councillor for Llandovery, Handel Davies said: “I have nothing but admiration and respect for John & Laura. Having settled to live in the area only recently, in which time not only have they quickly established a thriving business at Ystrad Nursery and Agricultural Supplies on the A40 outskirts of Llandovery, but they have also demonstrated their amazing social conscience by personally reacting to the potentially devastating impact resulting from the Post Office and Barclays Bank closures upon the town.
“Showing remarkable concern for this injustice to the local community John and Laura once again stepped in when they decided to submit a planning application for a new ATM at the new Post Office. Believing this would be a relatively straightforward process, it unfortunately proved anything but the case. However, thankfully, almost a year from the day that the new Post Office was opened, the new ATM has finally been installed.”
Pension Partnership announces ambitious new responsible investment policy
THE WALES Pension Partnership (‘WPP’), the pooling entity for the eight Welsh LGPS Funds, has announced a new Responsible Investment (‘RI’) policy, highlighting its commitment to responsible investment and desire to be a leader in this area.
The new overarching policy was developed collaboratively by the WPP and its eight Constituent Authorities* and will be adopted by them all. At the same time, it will allow individual Constituent Authorities to maintain and develop their own RI policies.
Commenting on the development of the new RI policy, Chris Moore, Director of Corporate Services from the WPP Host Authority, says:
“Responsible investment policies are vitally important not only to the administration of our funds but to the future of Wales. We recognised how crucial it was for the WPP to establish its own responsible investment policy and aimed to ensure that all stakeholders of the WPP were represented in the policy’s development. Building support and gaining consensus among the Constituent Authorities was imperative. We needed to be sure that the policy was representative of the broad range of investment beliefs within the Pool. We are thrilled to have agreement on a policy that can now be implemented on behalf of the underlying Constituent Authorities. We are all highly committed to seeing this new ambitious RI Policy succeed.”
In its new RI policy, the WPP has agreed to prioritise a number of actions over the next 12 months, including developing a specific climate risk policy and engaging with its investment managers to develop an appropriate set of RI monitoring metrics.
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