Update on EU citizenship post-Brexit

Dear friend,

You are receiving this if you have previously written to me about the impact of Brexit on citizenship rights; I wanted to update you on various recent developments.

Understandably, many of you are still feeling anxious and concerned about what Brexit might mean for your rights as EU nationals in the UK, as UK nationals in the EU, and as pro-Europeans. I can assure you that the Green Party is unique in fighting proudly for continued freedom of movement in our continent and we will continue to do so.

You may be aware of the British government’s proposals – which we consider wholly inadequate – and the response from the EU side. By laying out her plans for a form of ‘settled status’ for EU citizens in the UK after a (yet to be determined) cut-off date, Theresa May is only adding pressure on EU nationals to jump through the hoops of a harsh immigration system. Together with other Greens I will be arguing for a much stronger protection for citizens, as my colleague Jean Lambert explains here. She has also launched a ‘Free Movement Hub’ which provides resources and advice for citizens who are concerned about their right to freedom of movement and what the Greens are doing to protect those rights. This is the beginning of a negotiation and as Greens in the European Parliament we will be defending the interests of all European citizens to continue to enjoy rights to live, travel, and work wherever they choose across the continent.

I recently attended a session of the PETI committee – the Petitions Committee that deals with petitions initiated and signed by European citizens. This session dealt specifically with petitions that had been submitted to the Parliament about the rights of citizens post-Brexit. It was deeply moving to hear the concerns of ordinary citizens such as yourself and I am pleased that there was the opportunity for them to be discussed and highlighted in the Parliament. You can find the agenda of the meeting here and download a study on the potential impacts of Brexit for EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.  

Many of you focussed on the potential loss of existing rights under ‘freedom of movement’ and expressed the completely reasonable wish to maintain many of the rights that we currently enjoy under the Union. Whilst these proposals are still being reviewed by lawmakers, the petitions and concerns laid will remain open, and will be submitted to Michael Barnier, who is Chief European Negotiator at the European Commission, as important issues to be considered during the negotiation process with the EU. I am delighted that our European partners are taking heed of these proposals, and this will certainly be a pivotal issue within the negotiations and in any final agreement between the EU and the UK. You can watch my intervention in the PETI session here.

Last week, my colleague Jill Evans, who is Plaid Cymru MEP and part of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, launched a report she had commissioned which makes an interesting contribution to the debate around UK citizens retaining their EU citizenship, or having the right to become associate EU citizens, after the UK leaves the EU. The report draws five key conclusions on protecting EU citizenship and related rights. It lays out an optimistic vision for UK nationals wanting to retain their rights as EU citizens by way of continuity or through a final deal which includes a framework under which UK citizens are allowed to move, live and work freely. However, the report also covers the importance of reciprocal rights, meaning that if UK nationals are still allowed to travel freely to the EU, then this must be the same for EU nationals coming to the UK. Further details of the report can be found here.

It is important to note that the legal opinion expressed in the report is not the only interpretation of existing treaty law and the campaign to ensure the maximum possible guarantee of existing rights in the exit agreement between the UK and EU continues to be vitally important. I have been invited to speak to activists of the 3Million group who are campaigning on behalf of EU citizens from outside the UK who now live here and who are one of several groups doing excellent work keeping up the political pressure.

You can rest assured that I am watching developments closely and will keep you updated. I have also signed you up to my Brexit newsletter which explains how I am working to limit the potential damage from an extreme Tory Brexit and pushing for a ratification referendum that gives us the opportunity to change our minds. You do, of course, have the option to refuse either of these communications if you wish. For more regular updates you might like to sign up to my MEP Facebook page.