Sadness, relief, future planning: reactions to the UK election

A mix of sadness, relief and desire to move on has greeted the UK election results among groups of EU nationals in the UK and British residents in the EU.

With the crushing victory of the Conservative Party, it is now almost certain that the UK will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020 under the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The British in Europe coalition and the3million, a UK-based group focusing on the rights of EU nationals in Britain, said in a joint statement that “at least” most of the rights currently enjoyed by the five million people who have moved between the UK and the EU will be safeguarded through the deal. “We will have avoided the no-deal catastrophe that has been keeping us up at night,” they wrote.

The British in Italy group added: “Whatever our personal views about this outcome, the fact that a no deal exit is virtually ruled out now is a big relief.”

Campaigners and EU politicians also expressed regret at the UK departure from the European Union, while starting to plan for next steps.

Future priorities

In their joint statement, the3million and British in Europe said they will continue challenging the UK and EU countries that make the residence status dependent on an application rather than a simple registration, or people who fail to apply in time will become illegal.

The two groups also plan to bring to the future trade negotiations issues not covered in the exit deal, such as free movement of UK citizens already living in the EU and family reunions.

Just before the election, citizens’ rights group New Europeans launched a manifesto with priorities for the future EU-UK relationship. They called for the right to obtain free citizenship, a declaratory residence scheme and a physical proof of the new legal status in the form of an EU green card for the 5 million people directly impacted by Brexit.

“The green card would evidence the settled status of EU nationals in the UK and ensure free movement of British residents in the EU,” New European founder Roger Casale told Europe Street.

The3million and British in Europe also intend to challenge the “use of xenophobic rhetoric which stirs up anti-immigration sentiment.”

Elena Remigi of the group In Limbo, which has collected testimonies of EU nationals in the UK and Britons in the EU in the books In Limbo and In Limbo Too, said: “If on one side most our rights are still covered by the withdrawal agreement, on the other the whole campaign towards this vote has created a wider rift, particularly when the [UK] Prime Minister told us that we’ve been able to call this country home for too long. As a result, many of our members have seen a xenophobic backlash against them similar to that experienced after the referendum. Whatever this country decides, it is vital that EU citizens here and Brits abroad don’t pay the price of this decision.”

From Spain, Debbie Williams of the group Brexpats Hear Our Voice added: “We will continue to stand up for and defend the European Union’s fundamental values, which we believe in, and as a reminder they are respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. These values unite us all.”

Official reactions

Several leaders of EU countries, including Italy’s Prime Minister and the Presidents of Portugal and Romania, welcomed the clear majority emerged from the vote, as this will lead to an “orderly” Brexit and the protection of the rights of EU nationals in the UK and Britons in the EU.

In the congratulations message to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, said: “We will be vigilant in the implementation of the agreements, particularly concerning the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens in other member states.”

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen added at the press conference concluding the European Council meeting: “This is not the end of something, this is the beginning of excellent future relations between good neightbours.” She mentioned among the issues of “utmost importance” that “we care for the 3.5 million Europeans citizens in the UK.” But she omitted British citizens in the EU.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.

Image by Michael Zimmermann from Pixabay.

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