Today the European Parliament votes a resolution responding to the decision by Council to enter into the second phase of the negotiations. By deciding to open the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, a cliff edge scenario will be avoided. A no-deal Brexit would have been disastrous for everyone. However, I disagree that sufficient progress has been made on the issue of citizens’ rights.
With this resolution, the Parliament has clearly set out its conditions for consent to the final Brexit deal. The rights of citizens must be secured fully and permanently. The interim agreement that was announced last Friday contains good elements, but it is nowhere near a satisfactory arrangement. For example: citizens should not have to “apply” for a special status, but they should just “register” to regularise their situation. They should keep full access to the ECJ on matters relating to their rights. British citizens living in EU27 should retain their full right to freedom of movement, without restrictions. These and many more issues must be resolved urgently, and the agreed arrangements must be ring-fenced so that citizens’ rights will be ensured in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The statements following the announcement of the agreement, and the Merry Christmas letter by Prime Minister May to EU citizens in the UK, telling them there is nothing to worry about, are misleading. The remarks by David Davis also pull into question the reliability of the UK government as a negotiating partner, and their commitment to the terms of the agreement after Brexit. This is damaging for mutual trust, which is essential for the negotiations on Brexit, and for our future relations.
I call on Mrs May to retract her vow to create a “hostile environment” for immigrants. Many European citizens living in the UK can testify that that goal has been achieved: they are facing hostility every day. Harassment, discrimination, ill treatment by the authorities and even violence are now part of their everyday life. From now on, the UK government must actively build a welcoming environment and make sure the rights of EU citizens living in the UK are fully respected, before as well as after Brexit.
I would also like to remind the European Commission that it represents all EU citizens, including British EU citizens. It has a responsibility to ensure their rights before and after Brexit in the same way it does for EU27 citizens.
All national governments should do much more to protect the rights of their nationals living abroad. People should not be penalised for using their right to free movement, they should not be treated like second class citizens.
Although phase two of the negotiations will start early next year, the issue of citizens’ rights must remain on top of the agenda. D66 in the European Parliament will continue to fight for the rights of citizens.