EU expat group sets out post-Brexit demands to MEPs

A group campaigning for the post-Brexit rights of the estimated 3.2 million EU citizens living and working in the UK has met with members of the European Parliament in Brussels.

The group, the3million, which was established after the ‘leave’ vote in last year’s referendum, presented a briefing paper to MEPs – including Guy Verhofstadt, the parliament’s Brexit coordinator – setting out their demands for a future in post-Brexit Britain.Although both Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Commission have made securing expats’ future a priority in Brexit negotiations, marked differences in approach have emerged between the two sides.

Separate agreement on citizens’ rights

Ahead of the meeting, Anne-Laure Donskoy, who co-chairs the group, said they wanted an “early, legally binding and separate agreement” on citizens’ rights, registration and voting rights.She said that EU expats’ rights “to work, to marry, to have access to health services and education, to build a business” were threatened and that these rights should be “guaranteed and preserved not just for the short or medium term, but permanently”.The briefing paper says, “We fundamentally disagree that an agreement on citizens’ rights should be negotiated under the same over-arching core principle for the rest of the negotiations that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’. This is because it unnecessarily prolongs the current, unacceptable uncertainty experienced by almost five million EU and UK nationals (living on the continent) for another two years at minimum.”The group wants both sides to support an early, separate and legally binding agreement, which would preserve all citizens’ indivisible rights. “This should be ring-fenced from all other items, to ensure it will continue to stand even if there is no wider agreement, or if the negotiations fail or are delayed.”It also wants the European Parliament to adopt a separate resolution on citizens’ rights setting key principles and guidelines underpinning an agreement on this issue.
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“Lives matter”

“People’s lives matter, above and beyond anything else, and should be dealt with away from the rest of the Brexit negotiations,” says the3million.“All negotiating parties should agree the UK urgently needs a new, simplified or bespoke registration process that would allow us to claim our rights. All negotiating parties should agree to – at the very least – maintain existing voting rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU for European Parliament and local/mayoral elections.”The briefing paper also expresses concern at recent media reports suggesting that Mrs May would favour a change in status that would result in EU citizens in the UK being reclassified as ‘third country nationals’.It adds, “In addition, the current process of registering EU citizens in the UK is not fit for purpose. Problems stem from the fact that the UK, unlike many other EU countries, has historically chosen not to register EU nationals.“This has resulted in the system creaking at the seams as tens of thousands of people are applying for permanent residence and the Home Office is unable to process applications swiftly, efficiently and fairly.”For related news and features, visit our Brexit section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit

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