Secure citizens’ status regardless of Brexit outcome, say campaigners

Citizens’ rights groups wrote to Brexit negotiators asking them to secure the status of EU nationals in the UK and British residents in the EU, regardless of the outcomes of Brexit talks.

An agreement was reached on this topic last December, but its adoption depends on the overall negotiations. Groups fear that a UK departure from the European Union without a deal could cause the loss of a number of rights for people who moved across the Channel. These include the mutual access to healthcare and the aggregation of pension contributions. Campaigners asked to end the uncertainty and “to implement and strengthen” the existing deal, independently of other topics under discussion.

The letter was sent by advocacy organisations the3million and British in Europe to UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. It says:

“You jointly have it within your powers to end this nightmare immediately for over 4 million of us, by taking the true moral high ground and publicly committing to honouring these agreements on our rights – whatever the outcome of the rest of the negotiations.”

Last December, EU and UK negotiators reached an agreement on the rights of EU nationals in the UK and British citizens in the EU post-Brexit. The draft withdrawal treaty published in March reflected the content of the deal, although many areas remained unresolved.

The agreement does not cover all existing rights, but it was considered sufficient to move to phase two of Brexit talks. Two other items, the settlement of the accounts and the avoidance of a border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, needed however to achieve “sufficient progress” to close the deal. On the latter, there is still no solution.

Campaigners now call on negotiators to abandon the principle of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and “to ringfence […] the citizens’ rights part of the draft withdrawal agreement in all circumstances”.

At present, the UK has transferred all EU regulations, including those on the status of EU citizens, into national law. The application system for “settled status”, the new legal condition for EU nationals in the UK after Brexit, is also being tested. But even if unilateral guarantees were put in place, they will not be able to cover transnational rights, such as access to healthcare and pensions.

As regards British residents in the EU, in the case of no-deal Brexit, they will be subject to a complex mix of national and EU rules on “third country nationals”.

Notices on how to prepare for a no deal scenario have been issued by both the EU and the UK in a number of sectors, but none of them addresses the status of citizens.

Dutch Member of the European parliament Sophie in ‘t Veld, who is part of the parliament’s Brexit task force, criticised the lack of preparation. She said that the absence of notices in this area reflects the priority given to businesses over people.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.
Photo: Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier. © European Union, 2018, Source: EC Audiovisual Service.