The European parliament’s Brexit coordinator has warned the home secretary that Britain’s recent treatment of foreign nationals could “colour” MEPs’ attitudes to whether they approve a future Brexit deal.
Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, has written to Amber Rudd to express leading MEPs’ concerns about a series of incidents highlighted by the Guardian, including the threat to deport a Japanese woman who lives with her Polish husband in London.
Haruko Tomioka, 48, had her child benefit stopped and driving licence revoked, in what critics claim was an example of the Home Office’s attempts to create a “hostile environment” for those it believes should not be in the country.
Despite living in the UK for 13 years, and being married to an EU national, Tomioka was told in a formal letter she had seven days to leave the country before the Home Office accepted it had made a mistake.
Verhofstadt, who met the Brexit secretary, David Davis, for a meeting on Monday in Brussels, at the British cabinet minister’s bidding, warned Rudd in his letter of the concerns shared by him and colleagues on the European parliament’s Brexit steering group.
“An increasing number of these incidents have been reported in the media in the past months,” he wrote. “The most recent case concerned a Japanese spouse of an EU citizen who was threatened with deportation even though she was lawfully in the country under EU law for more than 13 years.
“As you are aware, the interests of both the EU and UK citizens are of paramount concern to the European parliament and the institution will act to protect their interests throughout the process leading to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.”
Verhofstadt warned that the UK needed to continue to comply with the letter and the spirit of EU law as long it was still a member of the bloc.