Scots MEP Alyn Smith calls for ‘certainty’ for British nationals living and working across EU

Veteran EU policymaker demands swift action to protect the post-Brexit rights of citizens in the event of a chaotic no-deal.

Photo Credit: David N. Anderson

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

22 Jan 2019

In the event that no agreement is reached by 29 March, the Smith has called for “certainty” for British nationals already living and working across the EU.

On Tuesday, he told this website: "It is sad indeed that we have reached this day where we now cannot wait any longer. It seems the only person not aware of the clock ticking is the woman who started the countdown in the first place, Theresa May.”

“But for all those people living and working across the continent, they have already spent far too long living in uncertainty about what Brexit will mean for them, and we now call on the EU to do what it can to lay their fears to rest.


"It should not be that we are calling for the EU to act unilaterally - the UK government could have made this a priority but they didn't. But now we feel that there is no other option than asking the other member states to do what our own government has refused to do.
"Just addressing the citizens' rights part of the Brexit negotiations is not ideal but right now, anything that can be salvaged is worth trying for and so I hope the other EU leaders will heed this call."

Smith’s comments come after UK Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons on Monday that she would have further discussions about the Withdrawal Agreement with different parliamentary parties, focusing on the Irish backstop, and that she would then “take the conclusions of these discussions back to the EU.”

She added that the UK Parliament would have “a proper say” in negotiations on future relations with the EU. May rejected the option of holding a second referendum, saying, “It would require an extension of Article 50. I also believe that there has not yet been enough recognition of the way that a second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.”

May, on Monday, also announced that the UK Government would cancel the £65 fee that EU citizens were going to have to pay in order to apply for residence in the UK after Brexit as part of the ‘settled status’ scheme.

"Just addressing the citizens' rights part of the Brexit negotiations is not ideal but right now, anything that can be salvaged is worth trying for and so I hope the other EU leaders will heed this call" Alyn Smith MEP

The announcement was welcomed by New Europeans, a citizens’ rights campaign group, with its CEO, Roger Casale, a former Labour MP telling this site, "The news that Theresa May's government will not charge EU citizens for "settled status" is a great victory for campaigners and clears the way for another big push for the #EUGreen Card.”

“EU27 citizens will need a physical proof of their status and Britons in Europe must get their free movement rights back as well as a unilateral guarantee of permanent residency with all rights intact should Britain leave the EU without a deal.”

Casale also paid tribute to MEPs Claude Moraes, Julie Ward and Guy Verhofstadt and the Brexit Steering Group in the European parliament and others who have led the campaign and has written to MPs and MEPs on this issue, saying, “it was a job well done".

New Europeans Benelux also said it welcomes the decision taken by the Luxembourg government to clarify the situation for UK citizens. If the UK leaves the EU on 29 March without a deal, British citizens in Luxembourg will have a year to apply for permanent residence.

Bart Roelofs, Chair of the New Europeans Benelux Steering Group, hopes the announcement by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn will provide some reassurance for the 6000 British citizens living and working in Luxembourg.

“It is great to see Luxembourg provide clarity for its British community. The next step is for the Luxembourg government to support the proposal for the EU Green Card currently under consideration by the European Parliament”, said Roelofs.

There is growing support for New Europeans’ proposed green card scheme which Casale says would ‘ring-fence’ the existing rights of UK nationals in the EU and EU nationals residing in the UK.

Casale says a green card would give EU27 citizens in the UK a physical proof of their status and mean that Britons residing in the EU could keep their right to freedom of movement within the bloc.

The statement from Luxembourg follows a similar announcement by the Dutch and Belgian governments confirming that Britons in both countries will retain their right to live and work in the country in the worst-case scenario – the UK crashing out of Europe with ‘no-deal’.  

Chris Garratt, one of Luxembourg’s many British long-term residents was relieved that the country had confirmed his right to stay, telling this website, “this is great news for me and my family. The lives of so many Britons on the continent are in limbo right now. With the current political mess back home, it’s easy to forget that fundamentally this is about people.”

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