Campaigners have reacted with dismay to the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement between the EU and UK, saying the deal “jeopardises” the future of millions of EU citizens in the UK as well as British nationals in Europe.
Groups campaigning to protect the post-Brexit rights of citizens, both the estimated 1.5 million Britons in the EU and the 3.5 million Europeans in the UK, have also reacted with anger at the draft deal.
Along with the UK divorce bill for exiting the EU and the Irish border issue, citizens’ rights was one of three of the EU’s red lines in the long running talks.
Belgian Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, chair of the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, said the assembly would closely monitor the citizens’ rights issue in the coming months.
But his comments did little to reassure Roger Casale, who heads New Europeans, a group which has been campaigning for citizens’ rights, who told this website that, “Free movement rights for Britons in Europe were not addressed and neither was the need for a permanent right of return for EU27 citizens in the UK.
“That is why it is so important that we continue to campaign to ring-fence the status of the five million citizens whose lives have been thrown into limbo by Brexit.”
He added, “We are also stepping up our call to Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, to secure unilateral guarantees for Britons in Europe in the event of a no deal Brexit.
“This follows the success of the campaign in the UK for such a guarantee to be given to EU27 citizens by the UK government, as Theresa May has done."
“We are also stepping up our call to Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, to secure unilateral guarantees for Britons in Europe in the event of a no deal Brexit" Post-Brexit Citizens' Rights campaigner Roger Casale
Further comment came from Nicolas Hatton, who chairs another Brexit citizens’ rights group called “The 3million.”
Hatton said, “Britons in Europe have reacted with anger and disappointment after the Brexit negotiators failed to deliver their promise to agree a deal that would allow people to carry on living their lives in exactly the same manner as before Brexit.”
He added, “Despite good progress at the early stage of the negotiations, the talks stalled when the focus switched to the Irish border, with crucial issues such as freedom of movement for British citizens in Europe and lifelong rights to return remaining unsolved in the agreement presented by Theresa May.”
He said “key concerns” had not been met including those faced by Britons in Europe who, he said, faced losing free movement which they rely on for work and family.
He said, “The 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK who have to pay to apply to stay in their home will undergo systematic criminality checks and can lose the new status if family or work obligations mean they have to leave the country for five years.”
“Brexit Secretaries come and Brexit Secretaries go. But unlike Dominic Raab our members don't have the luxury of walking away from this mess" Jane Golding, co-chair of British in Europe
Hatton said, “The3million campaign feels betrayed by the Brexit negotiators. Despite early progress in the negotiations, over three million EU citizens in the UK, including 700,000 EU children, are now facing a lifelong limbo under the withdrawal agreement.
“We are still bargaining chips, as the negotiators will soon discuss the future relationship, with our lives still in the balance. The withdrawal agreement does not protect our existing rights, and shamefully creates more insecurity by allowing the Home Office to pick and choose the EU citizens they want to keep.”
Further reaction to the deal came from Jane Golding, co-chair of “British in Europe”, a similar group, who said: “We were told in March that citizens’ rights were a done deal and that discussions on this would not be re-opened.
“However it is clear from the text that some changes have in fact been made, meaning that it is unacceptable and upsetting that free movement – a lifeline for many of us - has been excluded when both sides knew it was critical for us.
“Brexit Secretaries come and Brexit Secretaries go. But unlike Dominic Raab our members don't have the luxury of walking away from this mess.
“His resignation only adds to the uncertainty that millions of people have been experiencing for two years. It is now up to the European Parliament, not only to walk the talk on its red lines – free movement in our case – but to put pressure on all sides to ring-fence the agreement on citizens’ rights so that five million people can sleep at night now whatever happens on Brexit."