As the formal Brexit process is about to start, groups representing EU nationals living in the UK and Brits in other EU countries call on negotiators to agree upon two Brexit deals. The first, to be given priority, would secure rights of expatriates in their country of residence. The second would cover all other matters to be settled as the UK leaves the European Union.
The purpose of the move is to “get certainty so that people can continue living their lives normally,” explained Nicolas Hatton, co-chair of the3million, a group defending rights of EU nationals in the UK. “We also aim to decouple citizens rights from the broader negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.”
Campaigners would like the deal on citizens rights to be adopted at the first European Council meeting with Brexit on the agenda, probably in June. The second agreement would follow within 2 years from the official start of the Brexit process, as required by EU Treaties.
In the past nine months, since the UK voted to leave the European Union, expatriate groups have been calling on the British government to make a unilateral commitment and guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK after Brexit. During the referendum campaign all sides said nothing would change for them. Citizens rights organisations were also hoping a unilateral gesture would have encouraged the EU27 to do the same with Brits living elsewhere in Europe. The British government, however, declined to offer guarantees fearing the position of British nationals in other EU countries would be jeopardized. On its part, the European Union said from the outset negotiations on any aspect of Brexit would only start after the UK will hand in the formal notification of withdrawal.
Yesterday a delegation of the3million presented the two-deal proposal at a meeting with officials from the UK Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) in London. Next week, on March 28th, the group will turn to Brussels, where meetings are planned with the European Commission Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and his team. Representatives of organisations supporting rights of British citizens in the rest of the EU will join too. One of their priorities is the recognition that rights of expatriates and their family members are indivisible.
“These meetings are significant because it’s the first time we have a direct conversation with the people who are making decisions about our future,” said Nicolas Hatton. “Our key message is simple: we need the UK and the EU to work on an early deal to secure the rights of EEA citizens.”
Stefaan de Rynck, who is responsible for outreach and think tanks in the European Commission Brexit task force, wrote in an email to the3milion: “We in the European Commission fully understand the anxiety that you have experienced in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU and the uncertainty that the outcome of the referendum has created. […] The protection of your rights must happen through an EU-wide process, and not bilaterally between EU countries and the UK. Addressing the issue of citizens’ rights in the withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK is the best way forward to create legal certainty on your rights and their enforcement.”
The meeting in Brussels will take place the day before the British Prime Minister invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, formally starting the process to take the UK out of the European Union. The President of the European Council (representing all EU countries) has promised a response within 48 hours. A Council meeting is planned for April 29th to adopt the EU negotiations guidelines.
Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.
Photo: Nicolas Hatton, Germana Canzi and Wiktor Mozczynscki of the3million. Photo courtesy the3million.