By Jayne Adye
Chief Brexit Negotiator for the European Union, Michel Barnier, constantly talks about the Withdrawal Agreement’s obligations not being fulfilled by the United Kingdom, as well as implications the UK is not taking the Brexit negotiations seriously enough to secure a Deal.
One of the main themes of Barnier’s argument is the matter of ‘EU Citizens’ Rights’ in the UK being held up as not being properly secured in the UK post-Transition Period. This claim itself is clutching at straws, as millions of EU citizens have already easily claimed settled status in the UK – which is something which cannot be said for UK citizens residing in the EU.
The UK’s Settled Worker Scheme has been operational since March 2019 and actually offers many more comprehensive assurances for EU nationals living in the UK than the Withdrawal Agreement compensates for. Even in a ‘No-Deal’ scenario when the Withdrawal Agreement becomes obsolete, EU citizens in the UK are still protected.
On the other side of the Channel, there has been no such preparation or haste from the Member States to secure UK citizens’ rights. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, exposed this in a letter he recently sent to the European Commission, demanding action to help protect British expatriates living within the EU. We have seen no response to this letter – so far!
As Director of Get Britain Out, I have also written to Michael Gove asking him to ensure further action is taken on this. Mr Gove is the Chair of the UK-EU Joint Committee – the Committee with the authority to ensure the Withdrawal Agreement is being implemented on both sides. He needs to make sure the EU Member States’ Governments protect our citizens, as British expatriates should not be held to ransom by the EU in the remaining phases of the negotiations. Worryingly, the UK negotiating team have released the agenda for upcoming final round of negotiations and UK Citizens’ Rights, disappointingly, appear nowhere.
If the EU is still unwilling to act in a meaningful way, Mr Gove must push past the bureaucrats of Brussels and deal with the individual Member States which aren’t stepping up to protect our citizens. They have had 4 years to prepare a system for dealing with UK citizens residing within their borders.
The Pandemic is no excuse and Brexit is no longer a surprise.
It is shocking that countries like Spain and France – where most British expatriates reside within the EU and contribute to their economy – have done next to nothing to alert British citizens of the forthcoming changes and provide a system for them to be properly registered so they can continue living there.
The EU insist an extension to the Transition Period is necessary as there isn’t enough time left to implement the necessary obligations and negotiate a Free Trade Agreement. If the EU had started to implement their obligations over a year ago – as the UK has been doing – perhaps we wouldn’t be under such time-constraints now! This is purely political gamesmanship from the EU, but they are toying with people’s lives and homes. Surely this inaction by the EU must not mean Britons’ lives should be held hostage as a bargaining tool or an EU-wide scheme should be put in place immediately.
Due to inaction by most EU Member States, British citizens in the EU have only 7 months to secure their settlement status and rights. A lot of these British citizens voted strongly in favour of Leaving the EU. We must Get Britain Out of the Transition Period on time by the end of December 2020 and ensure our citizens living abroad have their rights properly secured and their democratic vote implemented.
The Author, Jayne Adye is the Director of the leading cross-Party Eurosceptic campaign Get Britain Out