Brexit: MEPs again raise concerns over citizens' rights in letter to UK home secretary

Written by Martin Banks on 2 May 2018 in News
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MEPs have sent a letter to Sajid Javid raising concerns about the online application system to register the 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.

Photo credit: Press Association


The European Parliament’s Brexit steering group and MEPs from five committees in charge of citizens’ rights met with representatives of the UK Home Office last week.

MEPs sent a letter to UK home secretary Sajid Javid raising concerns about the online application system to register the 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.

Deputies recommended that all citizens should be able to access the application system, including ID scanning (for older passports, children needing biometric passports, users of IOS operating system). The procedure should avoid passports being sent in the post. It should include an option to register members of the same family together on one form. Full compliance with EU data protection regulations should be ensured, they added.


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In the letter to Sajid Javid, MEPs suggested that particular attention should be paid to “vulnerable groups.”

They recommended that citizens should be able to register in paper format and that there should be a network of contact points across the country where passports can be scanned in a secure environment.

Commenting on the issue, Guy Verhofstadt, Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said, “In a spirit of collaboration, MEPs have set out a number of proposals in order to ensure the registration of EU citizens in the UK is dealt with in an efficient, flexible, timely and sensitive manner. 

“In light of the Windrush scandal and given the large numbers of citizens affected, both the EU and the UK must work together to get this right.

“It is important that the registration process should, as a matter of principle, be cost-free for applicants. It is unacceptable that citizens who were never consulted on Brexit should have to pay large fees to retain their own rights.”

The Belgian MEP added, “The registration system must be responsive, proportionate and cater for vulnerable groups and those who do not use digital devices.”

Verhofstadt added, “We look forward to knowing more about how the independent authority overseeing the system will operate, what its competence will be and how its independence will be ensured. 

“It remains a priority for the European Parliament to ensure that citizens, whether the UK citizens in the EU or EU citizens in the UK, can continue to lead their lives as they do now.”

The parliamentary committees involved in the talks are those dealing with constitutional affairs, civil liberties, employment and social affairs, legal affairs and petitions.

In March, the plenary adopted a resolution laying out a possible association framework for future EU-UK relations after Brexit. On the withdrawal, it reiterated the importance of securing equal and fair treatment for EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU. 

Any withdrawal agreement and future association or international agreement with the UK will need to win the approval of the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, former ALDE group MEP and constitutional expert Andrew Duff said the current Brexit negotiations have been overshadowed by “lack of trust”.

His comments on Wednesday come as UK Prime Minister Theresa May was due to chair the Brexit ‘war cabinet’ sub-committee meeting to discuss the different options for the UK’s post-Brexit customs arrangement with the EU. 

May, as well as Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and business secretary Greg Clark, are expected to back the option of a new hybrid ‘customs partnership’, in which the UK would continue collecting tariffs at the level set by the EU.

Responding to MEPs’ recommendations, Duff, now president of the Spinelli Group and visiting fellow at the  Brussels-based European Policy Centre, told this website, “The fact that the European

Parliament is now trying to micro-manage the UK’s scheme for the registration of EU citizens speaks volumes about the lack of trust now prevailing across the whole Brexit process.”

 

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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