A two Michelin-starred chef who has been in the UK for 23 years says he now feels “unwelcome” after his application to remain in the country after Brexit was refused.
French-born Claude Bosi, 47, who runs Bibendum restaurant in London, said the system was “inhuman” and made him feel like leaving the country.
He received a letter from the Home Office saying his application was refused after mistakenly seeking permanent residency and not the special scheme open to EU citizens only, called settled status.
“I laughed when I opened the letter. I couldn’t believe it. But I feel sad, I really love Britain. I love this country, I like the way they give you a chance to succeed. But this is, forgive my language, a kick in the balls. I have been here for 23 years, I pay tax, I pay VAT, I employ 60 people, but this is saying ‘sorry, tough, we do not want you’.”
He said he had never heard of the settled status scheme which was launched last March.
“I applied for permanent residency because a friend recommended it. He has a French wife and he said she got it no problem so that’s what I did.”
The chef, who held two Michelin stars at his restaurant Hibiscus in London before taking over Bibendum, shared part of the letter from the Home Office with his 27,000 followers on Instagram
“They have my records, they could see I was French. If this was the wrong thing to do somebody should tell me. Nobody told me I should apply for settled status, even when I went to the Home Office in person to get my photo taken.
“You have people there who can’t answer questions. When I asked how long it would take, what was next, they couldn’t answer. You are made feel unwelcome.
“After 23 years you feel like you are being taken for granted and they take your tax and then the robot just says ‘no’,” Bosi said. “This is the inhumanity of the government.”
He has lived in the UK since 1997 and has two children with another on the way.
He said if he had received the letter two years ago, before he invested his money in Bibendum, he would probably have left the country.
His letter told him that he had not “provided adequate evidence to show that you have been a qualified person” to remain and could reapply providing five years worth of P60 tax records, rather than the one P60 that he had supplied.
It also gives the impression that the settled status application process has yet to be launched, telling him at the end of what appears to be a templated letter that “a new scheme for EU citizens” will be “announced in due course”.
One legal expert said it was a failure of communication by the government and more must be done to raise awareness under the Brexit withdrawal agreement about to be ratified.
“They should have at least updated their letter to those applying for permanent residence to make them aware of the settled status scheme,” said Steve Peers, a professor of EU law at the University of Essex.
“There is an obligation under the withdrawal agreement to publicise the citizens’ rights rules and this seems to be an obvious failure, if people are still misunderstanding this.”
The Home Office launched the settled status scheme last March after huge controversy over EU citizens being threatened with removal after applying for permanent residency.
The scheme was designed to be easy and simple and so far the department appears to have had major success with 2.7m applications in less than a year.
A Home Office spokesperson said the chef had “made an application for a permanent residence card – something which EU citizens living in the UK are not required or encouraged to do”.
They added: “We have spoken to him to help him to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, which has already guaranteed the rights of over 2.5 million people.”