Campaigners welcome early pledges from the EU to reach a rapid agreement on the maintenance of all existing citizenship rights for more than three million EU citizens living in the UK and more than one million UK citizens living in Europe. However, campaigners fear that these people - who are living in limbo at present - are still being used as bargaining chips.
A draft of the EU negotiating position, leaked during the final week of April, did not include this promise, thereby provoking further uncertainty. The campaigners also call on UK political parties to include in their upcoming general election manifestos an explicit pledge to maintain all acquired rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK.
Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain and a member of British in Europe, says: "We are greatly encouraged by the EU's commitment to protect our rights for life. It seems clear that this is a red line for the EU and will provide much needed reassurance to millions of people who are worried about their futures. What would reassure us even more would be a similar commitment from the UK government. Furthermore, we need assurances that any deal agreed relating to citizens' rights is guaranteed, regardless of other negotiations, and especially in the event of a 'no deal' scenario."
Jeremy Morgan QC, a member of British in Europe who lives in Italy, adds: "For the five million people currently trapped in Brexit limbo, the leaked draft EU negotiating guidelines are the best news we've had had since the referendum. They clearly state that we should hold on, for the rest of our lives, to all our acquired individual citizenship rights after Brexit and that a deal on this should be reached at the beginning of the negotiating process."
He continues: "There is, however, one glaring hole in the guidelines, which means that none of this might happen. We need all sides to agree to ring-fence that deal so that it will continue to stand even if there is no wider agreement covering all other matters, or if this is delayed."
Costanza de Toma, co-chair of the3Million's EU-27 working group, says: "This reluctance, so far, to agree on ring-fencing means that we remain bargaining chips and we urgently call on all sides to consider the impact of this on five million people who must already cope with the terrible uncertainties provoked by Brexit. We cannot wait another two years before knowing whether we we'll continue to enjoy our current rights that derive from our status as EU citizens, whether from Britain or elsewhere. People of all nationalities will suffer as a result."
The coalition is concerned about the negotiating position of the UK government, which has been thrown into uncertainty by the decision to hold a general election in June. It calls on all UK parties to include in their manifestos an explicit pledge to maintain all the acquired rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK. This is necessary if UK citizens in Europe are to maintain their current rights. The coalition suggests that parties include in their manifestos the following basic principle for Brexit negotiations: "The UK's withdrawal from the EU should not have retrospective effect on individuals. UK citizens currently resident in the EU and EU citizens currently resident in the UK should be expressly treated as continuing to have the same rights as they had before Brexit'."
On Saturday 29 April, at a meeting in Brussels, the 27 EU leaders unanimously agreed the negotiating guidelines for Brexit, first issued on 31 March. The guidelines http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/04/29-euco-brexit-guidelines/ (http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/04/29-euco-brexit-guidelines/) were described by Donald Tusk, European Council President, as the "firm and fair political mandate" for the talks. Talks wll begin with the UK after the election on 8 June. The EU's Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier said: "We are ready... we are together".
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Notes for editors
Bremain in Spain is a group campaigning for the UK to remain in the European Union and to protect the rights of British migrants living and working in Spain. Run by a team of volunteers and chaired by Sue Wilson - a resident of the Valencian Community - the group advocates a tolerant and outward-looking society. It believes this is best achieved by the UK remaining a member of the EU and citizens retaining freedom of movement. Bremain in Spain is actively campaigning for various initiatives. During January 2017, Sue Wilson appeared in front of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Exiting the European Union at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, to present evidence about the concerns of UK citizens living in Spain. Representatives from Bremain in Spain were recently part of a delegation to the British Embassy in Madrid, where they met the British Ambassador and the Department for Exiting the European Union. Bremain in Spain is supporting the Choose Freedom citizens' initiative to issue EU passports to those affected by Brexit. The group makes frequent appearances in the media in the UK, Spain and other interested countries. Bremain in Spain is part of the British in Europe coalition of 11 UK citizens' groups across the EU. It is also affiliated to Britain for Europe and European Movement.
British in Europe is a coalition of a dozen UK citizens' groups throughout the European Union.
The3Million comprises EU citizens living in the UK and campaigns for their rights after Brexit.
For further information please contact
Sue Wilson, Chair
Bremain in Spain
Tel: + 34 696 056 328
Deputy Press Officer
Tel: + 44 7549 504281
Facebook: Bremain in Spain
Published for Bremain in Spain by Press Dispensary
+ 44 1273 741410