Some British people living in the European Union are having difficulties accessing benefits, services and jobs, Home Secretary Priti Patel complained Wednesday on the fifth anniversary of the historic Brexit vote.
In an article in The Daily Telegraph, Patel accused EU countries of treating British people unfairly, five years after more than 51 percent of Britons voted to leave the bloc following a campaign led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The home secretary said that “there have been a number of reported instances of UK nationals in the EU being asked for residence documents they do not need to hold, being prevented from accessing benefits and services and having trouble with their right to work.”
She also cited problems with travel to the EU, saying that some British nationals have “faced disruption onboarding and entry”.
She stressed it was “only right that the EU uphold their obligations on citizens’ rights, just as the UK has done for EU citizens in the UK.”
Meanwhile, she boasted that the UK’s settlement scheme for EU citizens, which opened in March 2019, was “very generous.”
By contrast, many EU countries have windows of a year or less for their equivalent schemes for British nationals, she said, and “France’s is currently open for less than nine months.”
She urged EU citizens to meet a June 30 deadline to apply for UK residency rights but said those who missed it on reasonable grounds will still be able to apply.
Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said Wednesday that such exceptions would include children whose parents failed to apply for them or people who had a serious illness that prevented them from applying.
He said immigration officers will be able to issue 28-day notices to people they encounter who may be eligible to apply, such as when conducting immigration raids.
Around 5.3 million EU citizens have applied for residency rights in the UK, according to government figures.