European Parliament calls on EU-27 and UK to respect citizens’ rights after Brexit
Thursday, 16 January 2020
European flag at Downing Street, London. Credit: Unsplash/Frederick Tubiermont
By an overwhelming majority, the Parliament adopted yesterday a resolution which expressed concern over how EU-27 and UK will implement and monitor the provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement on citizens’ rights after Brexit.
The resolution was passed by 610 votes or 81 % of the 751 MEPs. Only 29 MEPs voted against, mostly from the anti-EU Brexit party. The main focus of the resolution was the so-called EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) in part two of the agreement. The EUSS guarantees EU citizens residing in the UK and UK citizens in EU-27 residence rights and equal social rights.
The resolution mentions that currently around 3,2 million citizens from the remaining 27 Member States are resident in the UK, and 1,2 million citizens of the UK resident in the EU-27. “Those citizens took up residence in another Member State on the basis of rights they enjoy under EU law and on the understanding that they would continue to enjoy those rights throughout their lives.”
Whether those expectations will be met fully after the transition period by the end of this year is unclear. A number of the EU-27 Member States still have to legislate on how they propose to implement Article 18 of the Withdrawal Agreement on the issuance of residence documents. In the UK, the application for a settled status is reportedly cumbersome.
The resolution states that the administrative procedures should be “transparent, smooth and streamlined and that forms will be short, simple and user-friendly”. To that end, it points out that “greater certainty and a greater sense of security would be generated for EU-27 citizens in the UK if they were issued with a physical document as proof of their right to reside in the UK.”
The lack of such physical proof will further increase the risk of discrimination against EU-27 citizens by prospective employers or landlords who may want to avoid the extra administrative burden of online verification, or erroneously fear that they might place themselves in an unlawful situation, says the resolution.
Such a document would be in line with one of the main demands raised by New Europeans, a Brussels and London based NGO campaigning for citizens´ rights. Roger Casale, its founder and CEO, told The Brussels Times that he welcomed the resolution. “It reflects very well the actions we called for in our Citizens´ Rights manifesto which we launched on Human Rights Day in Brussels.”
“Our Green Card for Europe proposal remains a practical way forward as it can at one and the same time give EU citizens in the UK a physical proof of status while also securing the free movement rights of Britons in Europe. EU citizens in the UK and Britons in Europe should not be made pay the price of Brexit.”
The resolution mentions also the other two issues at stake, voting rights and the right of freedom of movement for citizens who move between the EU and UK post-Brexit.
The latter right is only guaranteed until the end of the transition period unless the EU and the UK agree otherwise in any agreement on the future relationship between them. In this context, the resolution regrets that the UK has announced that the principle of the free movement of persons between the Union and the UK will no longer apply.
The resolution urges that future free movement rights across the whole EU for UK citizens covered by the agreement should be guaranteed, as well as a lifelong right for citizens to return to the UK or the EU. It also calls on the EU-27 Member States to ensure that voting rights in the local elections of the country of residence are provided for all citizens covered by the agreement.
“For three and a half years the lives of EU citizens in the UK and Britons in Europe have been in limbo,” says Casale. “It´s of fundamental importance that these citizens have a voice post-Brexit which is why New Europeans insists that the right of EU citizens and Britons in Europe to vote and stand in local elections including for the London Mayor and Scottish Parliament are maintained post-Brexit.
“We also believe that EU citizens should be given the right to vote in general elections and that the UK government should make good on its promise to abolish the 15-year rule which prevents long-term British citizens resident abroad from voting in UK elections.”
At the European Commission’s press briefing today, the deputy chief spokesperson said that citizens’ rights are a majority priority in the context of Brexit. “There will be an appropriate follow-up of the resolution by the Commission,” she promised.