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The toughest fight will be around the negotiations - not for Cameron, but for New Europeans

Congratulations to David Cameron and the Conservative Party for winning an outright majority in the General Election. We look forward to the new Government implementing speedily its manifesto pledge to scrap the 15 year rule that bars UK expats from voting in UK elections after 15 years residence abroad. We have a number of concerns though about what else now lies ahead for EU citizens not just in the UK but across Europe.

Firstly, the new Government will now move to scrap the Human Rights Act which incorporates into law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Secondly, the Government will legislate for a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.


Thirdly, the Government will seek to negotiate a new relationship between Britain and the EU before that referendum takes place.

Scrapping the Human Rights Act will be a breach of the UK's international legal obligations. It can, must and will one day be reinstated.

A Yes vote for Britain to stay in the EU will have to be fought for but it is achievable. Most Brits want the UK to remain part of the EU. This number is likely to grow during the referendum campaign as it did in 1975 - with or without the concessions David Cameron seeks form the renegotiation.

The real danger lies in what the government seeks to obtain from the renegotiations that will precede the referendum.

Those negotiations are likely to focus on the issue of free movement and in particular the rights of European citizens to equal treatment wherever they live and work in the EU. Yet we know from the government's own review of competences that free movement is good for Britain and that understandable concerns about benefit tourism are based on exaggerated and unfounded claims about its scale.

What will Britain's relationship with the EU be worth to the citizen, if it has been hollowed out in this way?

Will politicians in the UK (Labour and Conservative) and elsewhere in the EU support giving David Cameron what he says he needs to be able to keep Britain in the EU? 

I say both political parties, because Labour's fourth pledge on its tablet of stone was to "control immigration", hardly a ringing endorsement of the principle of free movement. It is unlikely that David Cameron will face opposition from the Labour party for the package of measures he seeks to win concessions on in Europe. 

The real fight that lies ahead, is not just to secure Britain's membership of the EU in the referendum, but to make sure that the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of Europe are not curtailed during the negotiations.

This will require pressure to be applied both in the UK and in Europe, because there may be many in government in other EU member states who will seek to accommodate him. 

On 27 May, the new government will bring its legislative programme to parliament in the Queen's speech. 

It will contain a measure to scrap the Human Rights Act.

If that is not a wake-up call to European citizens, then I don't know what is.


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