Brexit & the EU Settlement Scheme
In October, I was fortunate enough to chair a passionate and compelling lecture by Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe, on the subject ‘Brexit: where are we now?’ With high hopes that she might tell us that things were not as bad inside Westminster as they appear from outside, I came away from her lecture feeling even more troubled about the state of our country.
Anna focused on the number of ‘firsts’ that the politics around Brexit represented for the UK, including an unprecedented indifference to the economic and social consequences of a no deal Brexit. What she expressed in her speech is what The Times’ political correspondent, Matt Chorley, has encapsulated in the hashtag #thisisnotnormal. Our colleagues in Malaysia and China are no doubt viewing our situation with bemusement and dismay.
I came to the UK many years ago and chose to stay here because I felt it was a more cosmopolitan and tolerant society than my country of origin. I considered myself an expatriate, rather than an immigrant, although today no doubt the latter label is the one that would be used. Applying for the right to remain and, eventually, citizenship, was my personal choice, so I was content to go through the hurdles that obtaining these rights required. This is not the case for more than 800 University staff across all job families who are EU citizens and came to this country with rights that will soon be removed. I cannot begin to imagine how that feels.
The Brexit referendum was an individual vote, and this is a democratic society. We have people in our University community who voted to leave as well as remain. But I would imagine that very few people, regardless of their stance on Brexit, felt they were voting for the chaos and prolonged uncertainty that we have experienced since 2016. Even now, we do not know what the future holds for our country, so the University is undertaking ‘no deal’ planning with the hope that we will never have to implement it.
We value our EU staff and want them to stay with us at the University of Nottingham. One small piece of certainty in the past week is the new EU Settlement Scheme, the pilot for which has singled out staff working in Universities. This will provide an opportunity for those University staff and their families currently living in the UK to apply to have their rights as citizens to continue after Brexit.
The University will pay the registration fee for all European staff and their families should they wish to apply for settled status under the scheme and I have therefore asked budget holders in the University to make the savings necessary to ensure that we can do this.
Our Human Resources department will offer administrative support, assembling documents and providing access to android phones to support staff in making applications. In addition to this, all international staff, whatever their country of origin, continue to have access to a loan scheme to help support them in acquiring the necessary visas or applying for citizenship.
I hope that all of our EU colleagues will apply under this scheme and can contact Megan.Garner@nottingham.ac.uk in Human Resources for further details.
Over the next few weeks and months, faculties and professional services departments will hold open meetings for EU staff to hear their concerns and answer their questions. UEB will be hosting receptions to celebrate our European staff and highlight their work. We will be showcasing some of their many contributions to the University of Nottingham both online and in a new portrait display celebrating international staff when the portraits of women of achievement currently in the Council Room of the Trent Building are relocated across the University in the coming months.
I appreciate these are small gestures and do little to compensate for the stress and uncertainty European staff are undergoing during these difficult times. I realise that the UK feels the opposite of a welcoming place for EU staff at the moment, but I very much hope you will all stay with us and that the University of Nottingham provides the kind of collegiate and supportive environment that you deserve. If or when the UK exits from the European Union, I am sure all University of Nottingham staff will want to ensure that future generations of our students recognise the value of a truly international campus and the outstanding contributions of our many EU staff.
Professor Shearer West
20 November 2018