A delegation of campaigners met MEPs in Strasbourg as part of a campaign to ensure the legal residency rights of citizens are “fully respected” after the UK exits the EU.
The move came as MPs in the House of Commons held a debate amendments to legislation which will pave the way for the UK’s exit.
Citizens’ rights, with the Irish border issue and the UK’s divorce bill, is one of three red lines the EU says must be dealt with before the talks progress.
Roger Casale, founder of the campaign group New Europeans, led a delegation of EU citizens from the UK to Strasbourg on Thursday to urge MEPs to step up the case for unilateral guarantees for UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.
The former Labour MP told this website:
“And this time there is a more urgent and pressing issue: not just the question of who is to blame, but the legal liability for failure if things go wrong.”
Speaking outside the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Julie Ward, a UK Socialist MEP who spearheads the campaign in the European Parliament, said: “Prolonged uncertainty is causing well-documented psychological and emotional distress to EU27 citizens in the UK and Britons in the EU27.
“This may give rise to legal challenges under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to private and family life. The British government and the EU institutions should stop playing poker with the lives of 5 million people and give immediate comprehensive, unilateral guarantees to UK citizens in the EU-27 member states and to EU-27 citizens in the UK.”
In meetings with representatives from across the main political groups in the European Parliament, including Roberto Gualtieri, chairman of the Economic and Monetary Committee, the New Europeans delegation urged MEPs to recognise their direct responsibility to intervene and protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU if talks on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU break down.
Dr Ruvi Ziegler, advisor the New Europeans’ citizenship unit and Associate Professor of International Refugee Law at the University of Reading, said: “I don’t think anyone expected the negotiations to go on for so long. Both the UK and the EU could have granted unilateral guarantees to EU27 citizens in the UK and Britons in the EU27 member states within days of the referendum.
“To leave 5 million lives in limbo for 18 months does make it much more likely that legal challenges will be forthcoming.”
In a meeting with Svetoslav Malinov, an MEP from the European People’s Party, Maria Spirova, spokeswoman for New Europeans in London called on the EU “to show courage and vision by pushing for unilateral guarantees for Britons in the EU if no agreement with the UK is reached by December”.
New Europeans also met with Jean Lambert MEP and Seb Dance MEP from the European Parliament’s EU citizenship task force.
Raluca Enescu, a Romanian who joined the delegation, said: “I was pleased to be told by MEPs that the European Parliament will not accept a deal with the UK that would involve the loss of rights for EU27 citizens. I also think it would help my situation and the3.4m EU citizens in the UK if the EU could set an example by giving unilateral guarantees to UK citizens in the EU and I was pleased to have the opportunity through New Europeans to put that case to MEPs in Strasbourg directly.”
Reproduced with kind permission: