A petition signed by 80 people representing civil rights organisations, law firms and academic institutions calls on the European parliament to cover the gaps regarding citizens’ rights in the draft Brexit agreement.
The petition was initiated by the EU Rights Clinic, a partnership between advocacy group European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) and the University of Kent in Brussels that helps people overcome difficulties when moving across the EU.
Petitioners say that some categories of EU citizens and family members might not be able to maintain current rights, based on the draft Brexit deal. The problem concerns especially family members of British and EU citizens returning to the UK after having resided in another EU country. It also affects non-EU parents (and more generally carers) of EU children in the UK. Despite some reassurances in the statement of intent recently published by the Home Office, it is not clear what legal status will be granted to these groups.
In addition, the UK committed not to require ‘comprehensive sickness insurance‘ to economically inactive EU citizens and their family members for the purpose of obtaining ‘settled status‘ (unlike permanent residence). But this could potentially change in the future, as the commitment is not mentioned in the withdrawal agreement.
In a separate analysis, civil rights group the3million said similar problems might arise for family members of British citizens who may have a second EU nationality (for example as descendants of someone from another EU country) but have never left the UK, as they have not exercised EU free movement rights. Difficulties may also emerge for family members of Irish citizens. Irish will not be required to register because of previous arrangements between the UK and Ireland, and this could create a legal limbo for their family members from other countries.
The rights to continuous free movement in the EU for British citizens residing in another EU country are also excluded from the Brexit agreement.
The petitioners say that the statements made by both the EU and the UK that “Union citizens and United Kingdom nationals, as well as their respective family members can continue to live, work or study as they currently do under the same conditions as under Union law” are not correct “as a matter of law and fact.”
The petition was sent this week to the European parliament’s petitions committee and Brexit steering group. Among the signatories there are MEPs, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, legal experts, academics, and representatives of civil society organisations, such as the3million, British in Europe, Migrant Voice, New Europeans, the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the Council of the Portuguese Diaspora, the Good Law Project, the Law Centres Network and the AIRE Centre.
They urge the European parliament to take action to secure full legal protections for EU nationals living in the UK and British in Europe after Brexit. Their letter requests an urgent parliament hearing and a resolution demanding the EU Council and Commission to include all the rights people presently enjoy in the withdrawal agreement.
In another statement, the3million said a citizens’ rights protocol should be annexed to the Brexit deal to make sure UK promises will remain legally binding. The request has been supported by the Brexit follow up group at the French Senate, which adopted on 12 July a report on progress in Brexit negotiations.
Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.
Photo: Didier Bauweraerts © European Union, 2018. Source: European parliament.
Article published on 14 July and amended on 16 July with addition of French Senate report.