The EU has been doing its best to protect the rights of EU citizens (including Britons in EU27 member states). However, it is now time to acknowledge that the current approach is flawed and to change track.
Specifically, the EU needs to abandon the attempt to secure a negotiated settlement with the UK over citizens’ rights and now act unilaterally.
Here are 10 reasons why it should do so:
1) To end the uncertainty
The EU is not responsible for the UK’s past decision to leave the EU but it is responsible for what happens next. The EU can and should act now out of a duty of care to end the uncertainty faced by over 1.4 million UK citizens living in the EU by granting them the right to stay with all their current rights
2) To "break the deadlock"
Such action would break the deadlock over unilateral guarantees for EU27 citizens in the UK. All the major opposition parties, many Conservative MPs (including leave voters) and the key parliamentary committees, including the Select Committee for Exiting the EU have called for unilateral guarantees.
3) “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”
This means that anything agreed now in relation to citizens’ rights will not be confirmed until all the other aspects of the withdrawal deal are in place. So, the uncertainty felt by millions of individuals and their families will continue.
4) “No ring-fencing”
The Commission has made clear that it has no mandate to “ring-fence” any deal on citizens’ rights. Not only will “nothing be agreed until everything is agreed”, there will also be no agreement on citizens’ rights at all if the overall agreement fails.
The situation of EU27 citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU27 member states are not symmetrical. Most obviously, EU27 citizens will continue to be EU citizens when the UK leaves the EU, unlike Britons in the EU.
6) Home Office
The Home Office has demonstrated that it is not up to the task of administering an immigration system that can cope with 3.4 million new residency applications. Deportation letters have been sent by mistake. And now we have learned that individuals whose cases are subject to appeal may still be deported before their cases are heard.
7) Second class citizens
Any kind of “settled status” scheme for EU 27 citizens will create a new category of citizens. Those who have “settled status” will resent being made to feel like second class citizens. Migrants from outside the EU who are not offered “settled status” will feel they have been made into third class citizens. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of EU27 citizens in the UK will still fall through the gaps of an immigration system designed to create a hostile environment and deter people from moving to the UK or from staying there.
8) Human rights
The prolonged uncertainty caused by the failure to guarantee the status of EU27 citizens in the UK and Britons in EU 27 member states may constitute a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Article 8 secures the right of individuals to private and family life.
9) To protect the principle of free movement
if individuals can be stripped of their EU citizenship rights, having exercised their right to free movement, then there is de facto no longer any such thing as freedom of movement. How can anyone exercise their right to free movement within the EU if there is no guarantee their entitlements will continue in the future?
10) To prevent a return to a bi-lateral approach to migration
If there is no deal on reciprocal guarantees and the EU fails to act unilaterally, there is a risk that there will be a return to bi-lateral immigration agreements between the UK and individual member states.