By Philip Mahboobani
Following the proposed changes to the Nationality and Borders Bill, specifically found in Clause 9 of the draft, the government would be afforded powers to remove citizenship without any notice where it is not “reasonably practical” or if there exists a threat to national security, diplomatic relations or in pursuit of a public interest.
This has sparked criticism of the government, who have been accused of disrespecting international law. It has also led to comparisons with the Windrush Scandal, where victims were denied compensation and did not receive adequate pay-outs. Further, this move has been criticised for its racial division, with organisations such as Runnymede Trust purporting that the bill introduces an underlying assumption that citizenship can only be taken away from non-white people.
Many have argued that these changes afford the government too high a degree of power to revoke citizenship, whilst denying appeals arguably weakens the rule of law. Some have proposed that the UK government should follow the US approach, who adopt the view that stripping one’s citizenship is a method to circumvent responsibility for its own citizens. The UK should rather seek to embrace its human rights obligations rather than act in breach of them.
The Future Consequences
The scale of these changes cannot be understated. It is reported that this will affect two in five people in England and Wales, and nearly six million people could become eligible to be stripped of their British citizenship. Following the responses from lawyers, parliamentarians, and international experts, it remains to be seen whether the UK will reverse a reported draconian exercise of their power, which is reported to result in a disproportionate impact on minorities. However, it is unlikely for this to be changed. As stated previously by the Home Office in relation to the Shamima Begum case, “British citizenship is a privilege, not a right”.