Union welcomes support of Goldsmiths for statement on EU nationals

22 July 2016

UCU has today welcomed the support of Goldsmiths for a statement from staff and students which highlights the importance of European Union (EU) nationals to the higher education sector, and calls for existing staff and students from the EU to be given a guaranteed right to stay in the UK.

The statement, originally drafted by Goldsmiths UCU, and now supported by the college, calls upon the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to 'lobby vigorously and immediately for the government to clarify the situation and to confirm that EU nationals working in the UK will be given indefinite right to remain'.

This echoes Four things that must happen to protect higher education after Brexit for a commitment from new prime minister Theresa May that EU nationals who are currently in the UK can stay.

EU staff make up around 15% of UK universities' academic workforce and the union said they make a huge contribution socially and economically to the country. UCU said refusal to confirm they are welcome to stay in the country or even doubt about their future status risked causing serious damage to the UK's reputation.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'I welcome the stance taken by Goldsmiths in defence of staff and students who are EU nationals and call on other institutions to do likewise.  It is simply not acceptable for EU nationals who have been living, working and paying tax in this country to be used as pawns in any Brexit negotiations, not least because of the enormous contribution they make to both UK society and the economy. Failure to act will cause global damage to the reputation of the UK's university sector.'

STATEMENT TO HEFCE ON STATUS OF EU NATIONALS

We value the huge contribution to academic life at Goldsmiths made by our staff who are citizens of other EU countries and believe that higher education is all the stronger for the presence of EU nationals in this country.  Goldsmiths has benefited from the experience of people who came to the UK precisely because they saw it as a welcoming place for minorities and as a home for progressive, creative and critical research. London has long been a hub for diverse populations, including LGBTQ people from across the EU, and Goldsmiths' staff and student body is representative of these migrant populations.

However, the uncertainty following the EU referendum places staff who are EU nationals but who do not currently have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK in a specifically vulnerable position. We are aware that many members of staff in this position are feeling very anxious. Some may choose to look for employment elsewhere while others may find themselves having to apply for the right to continue working while at Goldsmiths.

Meanwhile, new rules for permanent residency in the UK privilege a conventional employment history and personal circumstances that potentially discriminate against those who have had more precarious working lives and come from less traditional backgrounds. As an institution that specializes in the creative industries, Goldsmiths could be particularly affected by the rigid imposition of such rules.

The legal position is extremely unclear. The government has not yet guaranteed that once negotiations are concluded, EU citizens residing in the UK will be permitted to stay. However, during the referendum campaign, both official Leave campaigns pledged that such citizens would 'automatically' be given this right, i.e. be given ILR.

This uncertainty in residency status following the referendum helps no one. We believe that the government needs to guarantee the right to remain in the UK to those EU citizens living and working in the UK.

For politicians, there are good grounds for acceding to this call. The UK can ill afford to lose EU workers. Processing three million individual ILR applications is not feasible in the timescale available. Making this pledge would reduce the threat of a reciprocal deportation of 1.3 million British people from Europe. Finally, in the current febrile atmosphere, it would represent a clear line against those who would wish to blame migration for economic ills.

We call on HEFCE to lobby vigorously and immediately for the government to clarify the situation and to confirm that EU nationals working in the UK will be given indefinite right to remain.

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