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18 April 2018updated 09 Jun 2021 9:21am

The unexpected risks of mistreating Generation Windrush

There may yet be big implications for both Theresa May’s standing and the Brexit talks. 

By Stephen Bush

So much for Global Britain. The Windrush scandal has utterly wrecked Theresa May’s ambitions for the Commonwealth Summit and it could have big implications for Brexit, too. The big news line out of that is her apology to her fellow heads of government in the Caribbean for her administration’s treatment of Generation Windrush.

The latest development in the scandal is that the Home Office destroyed the landing cards of Windrush arrivals back in October 2010, against the advice of officials, making it much harder for the Windrush generation to prove they had a right to be here.

The destruction of the cards – which, as well as being a vital proof for Windrush Brits, were part of our national history that surely deserved a place in an archive rather than a grave in a shredder – is, perversely, good news for the incumbent Home Secretary Amber Rudd. It underlines that the problem isn’t incompetence or the conduct of the sitting Home Secretary, but the priorities of May and the purpose of the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016.

It has big implications, both for May’s public standing – she is on the wrong side of public opinion and her strongest media ally, the Mail – but also for the Brexit talks. The European Parliament – which, remember, holds a veto over the deal, too – is sounding the alarm about what this means for the treatment of the three million EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit. Understandably, nobody looking at the Windrush row could fairly claim not to understand why many in the EU Parliament want a continuing role for the European Court of Justice as a guarantor of citizens’ rights after Brexit.

But that increases the chances of a deal that is either difficult for May to pass, or rejected by members of the European Parliament. The full price of the government’s mistreatment of the Windrush generation could yet be higher than anyone expects.

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