UK MEPs praised for no-deal Brexit expat guarantee efforts

Written by Martin Banks on 4 February 2019 in News

Campaigners have welcomed support from a cross-party group of British MEPs for its long-standing endeavours to secure “unilateral guarantees” for Britons who live and work in Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

British expats in Italy | Photo credit: Press Association

This comes after a letter on the issue, signed by 25 MEPs, was sent to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his Council counterpart Donald Tusk.

Among those who signed the letter are Catherine Beader, Liberal Democrat MP for South-East England, Wajid Khan, Labour MEP for North-West England, Jean Lambert, Green party MEP for London, and Seb Dance, deputy leader of Labour’s MEPs.

The letter was also signed by Claude Moraes, a senior Labour MEP and chair of the LIBE committee, who said that there was a “fundamental rights issue at stake and a duty on the EU to act.”


The MEPs say they are concerned that a whole range of rights, including pensions and social security, that are currently enjoyed by the 1.5m Britons in Europe could be taken away in the event of a no deal.

On this, Moraes said, “The European Commission needs to be interventionist, they need to take an interventionist approach- this is a moral issue.”

The UK says such fears are unfounded and that the rights of expat Brits and also the 3.5m EU nationals in the UK will be protected.

On Monday, a UK government spokesperson said: “We have made a unilateral offer to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK even in the event of no deal, and we want the EU Commission and Member States to make similar guarantees for UK nationals living in the EU.”

“The European Commission needs to be interventionist, they need to take an interventionist approach - this is a moral issue” Claude Moraes MEP

Civil rights organisations first wrote to Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, last September as soon as it became clear that the UK government would offer unilateral guarantees to EU27 citizens in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The letter asked Barnier “to allow the EU to grant guarantees of the rights of British citizens resident in EU Member States and to do so unilaterally”

Earlier in the year former Labour MP Roger Casale, of the Brussels-based campaign group New Europeans, called the issue “a test of EU values.”

Addressing the EU institutions as a whole for their “failure” to safeguard the rights of Britons unilaterally, he said, “You are not to blame, Mr Tusk, for Britain voting to leave the European Union, but you are responsible for what happens in the future.”

Further endorsing the MEPs’ letter was Ruvi Ziegler, chairman of New Europeans UK, who told this website: “The EU institutions erred at the start of the withdrawal process by endorsing the mantra that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’, treating the rights of EU citizens on both sides of the Channel like tradable commodities, and refusing to unilaterally guarantee that the rights of UK citizens in the EU27 will be protected, irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations.”

“We wholeheartedly agree with the MEPs' letter and hope that, at one hour to midnight, the EU institutions respond promptly,” Ziegler added.

A parliamentary hearing on the issue is due to be held this month by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE).

“You are not to blame, Mr Tusk, for Britain voting to leave the European Union, but you are responsible for what happens in the future” Roger Casale, New Europeans

New Europeans is campaigning for a green card to “ring fence” the rights and status of Britons in Europe and EU citizens in the UK and work with the Citizens Rights Friendship Group in the European Parliament, led by UK deputy Julie Ward, and with local councils to secure the rights of Britons in Europe.

The authorities in Brussels are currently debating a motion calling on the Belgian government to give unilateral guarantees to Britons in Belgium in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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