British in Europe and the3million have written to DExEU, the Home Office, the EU Commission and Parliament with their comments on Round 2 of the negotiations on citizens’ rights, urging them to take them into account in future rounds.
The main concerns expressed are:
- The continued failure of both sides, but particularly the UK, to recognise that we have acquired rights which cannot be taken away so that we cannot be asked to “apply” for a “grant” of something less.
- The EU’s apparent U-turn on accepting that those of us who have exercised the right of free movement by moving to an EU27 country should continue to have that right and be free to live, work etc in other EU27 countries.
- The UK’s attempt to defuse criticism of its proposal to make EU citizens with a right of permanent residence apply for a grant of “settled status” under UK immigration rules. They say that settled status will be interpreted according to EU rules on permanent residence. But the result will be an unclear mish-mash of two incompatible systems with the only predictable result being years of uncertainty. We don’t know how much of the highly restrictive UK immigration rules they want to keep for those from the EU but, for example, the UK has recently all but abolished the right of appeal in immigration cases, an abolition which until Brexit does not apply to EEA citizens.
- The determination by both sides to keep the rule that you lose a right of permanent residence if you leave your residence for 2 years. If we all have rights of free movement then this does not create a hardship because if you leave your residence for more than 2 years you have a right to return and re-acquire permanent residence rights after 5. If freedom of movement is removed, however, then you lose that right. Given that many people have good reasons to leave for more than 2 years (think students, think those who move back ‘home’ to look after an ageing relative), this can cause real hardship. The UK is proposing some flexibility here, but if the “flexibility” it shows in the comparable case of non-EU citizens is anything to go by, this will be so limited as to be of little real assistance.
- The EU’s failure to concede voting rights in local elections, though this may just be a bureaucratic issue of whether this is appropriate for the Article 50 agreement.
- The continued failure to discuss, let alone agree, ring-fencing of any agreement which is made on citizens’ rights.
The British in Europe/the3million response document deals with a number of other issues of detail raised in round 2, which those who want to can read if they follow the link below. However it does not go over all the same old ground which we have covered in earlier official publications, so there may well be issues which are important to you which are not mentioned: we will deal with them as they come up (or not) in subsequent rounds of the negotiation.
What has been reassuring is that, as a result of the extensive lobbying we have done, British in Europe and the3million are now being consulted by officials at a very high level on both sides of the Channel. We were debriefed on round 2 almost immediately after the official press conference and invited to have a continuing dialogue with the negotiating teams so that the views of those most directly affected, the citizens whose rights are in issue, are taken into account.