Brexit: MEPs to discuss citizens' rights next week
The thorny issue of citizens’ rights after the UK exits the EU will be discussed by MEPs at a meeting in Parliament next week.
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With uncertainty still hanging over the status of British nationals in Europe and EU citizens in the UK, the matter will be debated by the European Parliament friendship group on citizens’ rights on Wednesday.
Separately, the UK Home Office is expected to send a delegation to Parliament next week to discuss this and other Brexit-related issues with deputies.
Citizens’ rights were again in the headlines this week after the European Commission republished a new version of the draft withdrawal agreement.
The fact, though, that Article 32 - which deals directly with citizens’ rights - was missing from the text agreed and unveiled by Michel Barnier and David Davis has caused consternation.
Further confusion was caused because references to Article 32 still appear in the rest of the text.
Commenting on this development, former Labour MP Roger Casale, CEO of the citizens’ rights campaign group New Europeans, told this website, “Britons in the EU are understandably upset - not only do they appear to have lost their freedom of movement rights, they have even lost the paragraph that referred to this predicament - Article 32.”
Speaking on Friday, Casale added, “However, we believe that Article 32 has been pulled because it was not fit for purpose and will shortly be replaced with a new version. We don’t know for sure what is being worked on. But the fact that something is obviously cooking is potentially a very positive development.”
His group has advocated a Green Card for Europe as a way of breaking the impasse on citizens’ rights and restoring the pre-Brexit status quo for the five million EU citizens (transnational citizens in the UK and the EU) whose lives have been disrupted by the UK's decision to leave the EU.
The idea won a national newspaper award in the UK and was examined by MEPs at a formal joint hearing of the civil liberties, employment and petitions committees in February. The Brexit steering group have been briefed on the proposal, as has Michel Barnier.
“It seems to me that the EU has up to now been using the free movement rights of Britons in the EU as a bargaining chip in the negotiations,” said Roger Casale.
“This has to stop - Britons in the EU are children of Europe not just of the UK. They deserve the EU’s protection. A Green Card for Europe would restore all their rights and allow lives to return as far as possible to normal if Britain really does leave.”
Casale is also a member of the Home Office Settled Status User Group which is consulting with stakeholders about the settled status scheme.
Speaking ahead of next week’s parliamentary meeting, he said, “MEPs are incensed by the lack of consultation with them about changing Article 32. However, the Commission probably wants to take a steer from the council meeting this week before coming forward with new proposals. So, this is a time when MEPs and campaign groups should be calling loudly for the Green Card for Europe because it is so far the only proposal on the table that would restore all the rights of EU27 citizen and Britons in the EU - something that Guy Verhofstadt has already said is his most recent press conferences is about to happen.”
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