Bremain in Spain comments on the Brexit negotiations
She says: "Britons throughout Spain spent the last week watching and waiting for news on negotiations regarding citizens' rights. What we witnessed, instead, was the apparent lack of preparation of the UK government and the contradicting professionalism of Michel Barnier's team. Much fuss was made about the so-called 'divorce' settlement, yet citizens' rights barely received a mention.
"Yet again, it seems that money was more important than people. We have been holding our breath, waiting for some positive news and reassurance that we will be protected. We have repeatedly been told we are the number one priority in these negotiations but it hardly looks that way, does it? Everyone says how important we are. However, we don't feel important: we feel invisible. How much longer must people live with uncertainty and worry?
"When news re citizens' rights was finally forthcoming, it wasn't the news we hoped to hear. Far from reassuring us, the EU's comments about freedom of movement sent shockwaves throughout the British community. The offer on citizens' rights, presented weeks ago, reassured us that the EU intended to protect all our rights and freedoms, as if Brexit had never happened."
Wilson continues: "This new threat to our freedom of movement is of great concern, especially to those who work, or wish to work, in more than one European country or travel across borders from home to their workplace. However, we must keep things in perspective. We must remember that the official EU position, which met our needs, was in the negotiating directive of 22/5. Any amendments to the content of that directive would have to be agreed by all members of the EU27."
Jane Golding, Chair of British in Europe, spoke on behalf of the coalition of 11 UK citizens' groups in the EU, of which Bremain in Spain is a member. She said: "I was puzzled about the EU's move to prevent British people living in the EU from living in another EU member state after Brexit, because the organisation's commitment to freedom of movement was specifically added to the final negotiating document following a meeting with British citizens in Europe on 10 May. The 'definition of the rights to be protected' in the draft negotiating document makes no mention of freedom of movement but the corresponding paragraph in the final negotiating paper, paragraph 21 (b) (i), specifically refers to 'the residence rights and rights of free movement'."
While this news from the EU has caused consternation, Sue points out that Britons living in the EU widely perceive that the fault lies with the UK government. She says: "Theresa May's offer, far from being 'fair and serious', would see our rights downgraded, should the EU choose to reciprocate. When May's offer was put forward, it was lacking in detail and would see EU citizens cast as second-class citizens in the UK. By contrast, the EU offer on citizens' rights would enable us to live as we do now. This is all we're asking, and we expect EU citizens in the UK to be treated the same way. It is the UK government, in trying to limit the rights of EU citizens in the UK, that is putting us and them at risk."
On the positive side, Bremain in Spain is relieved the EU is sticking to its guns regarding the ECJ and hope that May can be persuaded to compromise. Any future agreements would not be adequately protected under UK law alone, and citizens of the EU, in particular, should have the protection of EU law. Many recent calls in parliament have asked May to soften her stance on the ECJ in relation to citizens' rights and re membership of European agencies, such as Euratom.
Wilson concludes: "As time passes, the realities of the damage, cost, difficulty and sheer stupidity of Brexit become ever more apparent. It has been noticeable, since the general election, how the mood has changed and we are seeing a prevalence of the words 'if Brexit happens', rather than 'when'. Public figures and journalists are contemplating a no Brexit scenario. That stance would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago. For those rightly concerned about the preservation of their rights, a good deal is a viable plan B, and we will always fight for those rights.
"However, our most important fight is to stop Brexit from happening and keep the UK in the EU. If we're successful, no matter how long it takes, now matter how much damage has been done and sleep has been lost, every minute of pain and suffering will have been worth it and the celebrations are likely to last for ages."
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Notes for editors
For further information please contact
Sue Wilson, Chair
Tel: + 34 696 056 328
Deputy Press Officer
Tel: + 44 7549 504281
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