UK urged to respect post-Brexit EU citizens’ rights

Written by Martin Banks on 21 January 2020 in News
News

MEPs raised concerns after a senior UK minister suggested EU citizens could face deportation if they fail to secure settled status in time.

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Joint leader of the Greens Philippe Lamberts has appealed to the UK to respect the post-Brexit legal rights of EU citizens in Britain.

His comments come after UK security minister Brandon Lewis recently threatened EU citizens with deportation from the UK if they do not apply for settled status before the deadline of 30 June 2021. He later claimed the comments had been taken out of context.

However, Lamberts has angrily hit out at the minister’s remarks and urged the EU to ensure citizens’ rights are respected in the upcoming trade talks between the UK and EU.

The UK is due to exit the EU on 31 January and the transition period will end in December.


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Last week in the European Parliament in Strasbourg MEPs endorsed a resolution on the issue which calls for the protection of citizens’ rights after Brexit.

Lamberts said, “There are three million EU citizens in the UK who fear they may lose their rights after Brexit and we are extremely concerned about this. We in this parliament will do our utmost to ensure their rights are maintained, post Brexit.”

He said he was “particularly concerned” about the UK’s Brexit transposition legislation and the possibility of Britain withdrawing from the supervisory body which is responsible for ensuring that citizens’ rights are respected.

"There are three million EU citizens in the UK who fear they may lose their rights after Brexit and we are extremely concerned about this. We in this parliament will do our utmost to ensure their rights are maintained, post Brexit" Philippe Lamberts (BE, Greens/EFA)

Lamberts aid, “Of course, we want to keep as close a partnership with the UK as possible after it leaves the EU, but this presupposes that the UK’s position does not change and that it will treat our citizens who live in the UK impeccably.”

The same applies to the estimated 1.5 million Britons living in Europe, he said, adding, “We have safeguards in place to ensure Member States will safeguard the rights of Britons in Europe.”

Looking ahead to the coming months, Lamberts said, “In the required timeframe, I don’t think we will get an extensive agreement other than a bare bones agreement. As political majorities change in the UK, I hope Britons will realise their interests are best served by being as close to Europe as possible.”

Further comment came from Polish MEP Danuta Hübner who said, “I deeply regret that the UK government says it will end the free movement of people. EU citizens have greatly benefited from this right and I hope the government will still change its mind on this issue.”

She added, “We also need an awareness raising campaign about citizens’ rights and we must keep a watchful eye on citizens’ rights in the current talks between the two sides.”

Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, a fellow member of parliament’s Brexit steering group, added, “I hope the parliament will massively back the resolution on Wednesday so as to give us a final mandate on this. This is necessary because there are still concerns, including about free movement, that need to be addressed. If they are not addressed now, they will remain until the end of the year.”

"I hope Boris Johnson can show the same flexibility over this issue that the Queen has shown to Megan and Harry" Guy Verhofstadt (BE, RE)

“We also need a physical document offering proof of the right to residency at the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021. These need to be addressed. I hope Boris Johnson can show the same flexibility over this issue that the Queen has shown to Megan and Harry.”

Tory Geoffrey Van Orden said, “Conservative MEPs have consistently stood up for British interests throughout their time in the European Parliament. We leave now with mixed feelings. Some of us have been here a long time and have made many friends across the Parliament and beyond. But we have seen the EU determined to pursue a goal of political integration which we fundamentally oppose."

"We pushed for reform and change but it fell on deaf ears, as have the concerns of so many citizens across the continent.Our final act will be to see the Withdrawal Agreement safely though the Parliament so that we can depart on good terms.  We want to leave positive feelings towards the UK so that a good trade treaty and other arrangements can rapidly be concluded with the EU and close, friendly relations maintained."

"Britain is leaving the institutions and jurisdiction of the EU. We are not leaving Europe. We remain the strongest European military power in NATO and will once more become that great trading nation with global reach, a bastion of freedom.”

He also referred to the 1.5 million Britons living in mainland Europe.

Van Orden added, “This resolution focuses disproportionately on EU citizens in the UK and gives scant attention to Britons who are in the EU – just one paragraph out of 22. Hardly any Member States have so far published plans for how this will work for Britons in Europe, so I hope this parliament will be rigorous in ensuring that Britons in other EU countries are properly treated”.

He said that in the UK, 2.6 million EU citizens had applied for settled status and only five have been refused (on the grounds of “criminality”).

"The resolution we will vote on fires more than one firing shot which must be heard. These are genuine concerns from citizens. If we do not get this right, it will be a deep scar and a continuing injustice for years to come" Claude Moraes (UK, S&D)

This, though, was challenged by Greens UK member Christian Allard who said 47 percent of those who had applied for settled status had been refused and told to reapply.

He said, “I have lived in Scotland for 25 years and the UK settled status scheme is not fit for purpose. I am very worried about what will happen next, but I will not be denied the right to live in my own home, Scotland.”

Jude Kirton-Darling, a Socialist member, said, “We have a moral duty to those many Britons in Europe who had no vote in the Referendum and are being further disenfranchised.”

Meanwhile, her colleague, MEP Claude Moraes, said, “The resolution we will vote on fires more than one firing shot which must be heard. These are genuine concerns from citizens. If we do not get this right, it will be a deep scar and a continuing injustice for years to come.”

Brexit party MEP Ann Widdecombe hit back, declaring, “Ending the free movement of people was a massive factor in the British public’s decision to leave the EU. It was one of the biggest driving forces, but people here are still trying to tell the UK we should dare to have an application process for citizenship.”

 

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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