The UK government has so far refused to guarantee the rights of EU27citizens in the UK unilaterally, preferring instead to treat these citizens as “tradable commodities” in the Brexit negotiations on the spurious pretext that this is in order to protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU.
The European Union is likely to make unilateral guarantees
The EU is just as concerned about the rights of UK citizens in the EU as it is about the rights of EU27 citizens in the EU and rightly so – they are all EU citizens.
It is not on record that the EU will move unilaterally to secure the rights of UK citizens in the EU if the negotiations break down, but it is to be expected.
The alternative would be a series of bilateral agreements between the UK and member states, which the EU will wish to avoid at all costs.
The European parliament is not prepared to sanction an EU-UK deal that does not give protection to UK citizens’ rights that is “absolute and beyond doubt”.
Why should it sanction an agreement between EU27 member states which falls short of comprehensive guarantees for UK citizens in the EU post Brexit if talks fail?
The UK government should “blink first”
The UK Government would gain much in terms of negotiating potential if it announces immediate, comprehensive and unilateral guarantees for EU27citizens in the UK and does so now.
In other words, in this poker game over citizens’ rights, there is much to be gained by the UK if it “blinks first”
This can either be done through amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill or to the Immigration Bill.
There is risk of legal challenges at the ECtHR
The UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
It is becoming apparent that cases may be brought directly to the Strasbourg-based court as result of the prolonged uncertainty.
As Dr Dimitrios Giannopoulos explained to the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee on 31 October 2017, “the prolonged uncertainty and anxiety experienced by EU27 citizens could be a violation of the right to private and family life underArt.8 of the ECHR”.
The key arguments are set out in an article by Dr Giannoulopoulos, who is the Director of Britain in Europe and an advisor to New Europeans’ citizenship unit in an article in The Conversation, 8 November2017.
There is growing evidence that the Government’s hostile environment strategy is working to deter EU citizens from coming to the UK and persuading others to leave. 122,000 EU citizens have left the UK since the referendum.
The strategy has increased hate crimes. Discrimination against EU27 citizens in the housing and jobs markets and in relation to access to welfare and public services.
It is time to end the hostile environment strategy which is now out of hand and get the negotiations with the EU on track by granting #UnilateralGuaranteesNOW.
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 Guy Verhofstadt MEP in letter to Michel Barnier on behalf of the EP Brexit Steering Group, 29.11.17
 End Migrant Uncertainty, Expert says UK could be punished by Human Rights Court, The Daily Express, 31 October 2017
 House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, Justice Sub-Committee, Oral Evidence, 31 October 2017