EU can guarantee rights of 1.6 Million UK citizens in the EU unilaterally

In a ground-breaking report based on empirical research and expert legal analysis, the civil rights group New Europeans has called for the EU institutions to guarantee the rights of UK citizens living in the EU unilaterally.

They are joined by Members of the European Parliament from across the EU to send a strong message about the rights of UK citizens.

Led by Julie Ward MEP f(Labour, NW England), Members of the European Parliament have tabled an urgent written question to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, calling for an end to the practice of using citizens as bargaining chips in the negotiations on Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

Julie Ward MEP said:

“UK citizens living in the EU are currently being used as pawns in Brexit negotiations, which is unacceptable. Individuals and families who have made their homes in other EU countries are being left in a cruel limbo whilst the negotiators spar back and forth. The EU is the world leader on human rights so it needs to put its head above the parapet and guarantee the unilateral recognition of the rights of UK citizens living in other EU countries.”   


Roger Casale, Founder and CEO of New Europeans , in calling on the EU to safeguard the rights of UK citizens, said  :

“As committed Europeans, let us take a moment to reflect. We are building a Europe of the Citizens, a European Union that safeguards human rights. The EU is doing its best to protect the rights of 3.4 m non-British EU citizens in the UK and 1.6 m British EU citizens in other member states. 

British citizens resident in the EU are not UK expats they are EU citizens.

We respectfully ask the EU to guarantee their rights unilaterally and as soon as possible, because not to do so may represent a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  

We ask this also in the name of EU citizens resident in the UK who understand and empathise the distress suffered on a daily basis by their UK counterparts in the rest of the EU. “

We are encouraged by the stance adopted by EU in its commitment to secure the rights of 5 million Union citizens set to be most adversely impacted by the UK's departure from the EU. We thank them for their continued engagement with New Europeans and civil society

However , our evidence shows that the uncertainty these citizens are facing has reached a critical level. Their lives are in limbo and the current situation poses a real threat to the full enjoyment of their private and family life.

Dimitris Giannoulopoulos, Founder of the 'Britain in Europe'  think tank, Senior Lecturer and Associate Dean, Brunel University London, said:

“Article 8 provides strong support to the argument that the EU must now unilaterally recognise the rights of UK citizens in the EU.

Unless it does so, it risks causing irreparable damage upon the right to private and family life of 4.5 million Europeans, bringing disrepute to the system of human rights protection in Europe and overwhelming the administration of justice in affected EU countries. “

The UK Government has failed to guarantee the rights of 3 Million EU nationals unilaterally or to rule out a future withdrawal by the UK not just from the EU but from the European Convetion of Human Rights.

Dr Ruvi Ziegler, Associate Professor in International Refugee Law at the School of Law, University of Reading, and adviser for New Europeans commented that

“The pre-Article 50 notification promise that rights of non-UK EU citizens will be a first priority for the UK, or the subject of an early agreement is gone.

There is no way of reading the manifesto other than that non-UK EU citizens remain a ‘bargaining chip’, subject to the rest of the issues being resolved in a satisfactory manner.

 If 'no deal is better than a bad deal', as the manifesto explicitly states, and if rights of non-UK EU citizens are one of the topics for negotiation, which other conclusion can be drawn?  

Moreover, there is no compassion or recognition of the contribution that non-UK EU citizens make to British society. This is in clear contrast to the Liberal Democrats and Labour manifestos and indeed to previous *government* papers, including the Lancaster House speech.

This sentiment is reinforced by the fact that the (future) policy preference of controlling immigration is entangled with the (current) protection of people who are already here.”


This places the future life plans of 5 Million EU citizens in jeopardy, that is to say 3.4 m EU citizens in the UK and 1.6m British citizens in the EU. 

Confronted with this challenge, New Europeans  calls on the EU to be even more bold and ambitious than it has been up to now in its response.

In reality, what we are now facing is a human rights crisis on a mass scale inside the borders of the EU.

EU citizens look to the EU to continue to respond to this crisis in a way consistent with a vision of Europe as a Europe of the Citizens and in a manner consistent with the EU's reputation as a guarantor of human rights.

UK citizens have done nothing wrong apart from exercising their free movement rights as EU citizens. These are not UK expats, they are EU citizens. They too rely on an EU that can safeguard their rights directly, regardless of the outcome of the overall Brexit negotiations.

In launching the #EUGuarantees campaign , Samia Badani, Head of Campaigns, New Europeans, said:

“We turn to the EU to be bolder and more ambitious. The fate of 5 million Union Citizens must be completely disentangled form the overall Brexit negotiations.

We look to the EU to lead and be the guarantor of our rights.  EU citizens tell us "We want our lives back" . 

They have clearly stated to us that they want member state governments to bring to an end the period of anguish and uncertainty by them and by UK citizens in the EU with whom they feel a strong sense of solidarity.  

They also believe that such a move could unfreeze issues around their own situation and lead to a parallel unilateral guarantee by the UK government within a matter of months.

We call on civil society partners and citizens to join us in our campaign to secure the rights of citizens"



New Europeans is the largest network in the UK advocating for the rights of EU citizens and promoting our European values. New Europeans also campaigns for the rights of UK citizens in the EU.

We co-sponsored the Unite for Europe March in London that saw 100,000 participants and organised the first mass lobby of UK parliament by EU nationals in the UK.

​​We are an award-winning organisation through our work on the ground with the EU27 and our campaigns

We have set up a coalition of leading UK based organisations including Amnesty International , all calling for the UK to grant EU nationals unilateral guarantees.

We are also chairing the forum of UK EU27 organisations representing the interests of their  respective.

We aim to ensure  that interests and views  of all EU27 are represented. Our members and partners actively engage with national parliaments in the EU27.

We continue to work with UK officials and EU institutions.

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