The chips are ready and the cooking oil is piping hot. EU citizens in the UK and Brits in the EU are just about to be immersed for the umpteenth time in a deep pan fryer that will finally scar for good any last remaining ounce of citizens’ rights as we knew them. I may be wrong in passionately feeling that the question of maintaining citizens’ rights should have transcended all the legal and commercial disputes associated with Brexit. For me, this is about people who built their lives based on European ideals and should be about nothing else. Now was the chance for Michel Barnier and others to give European citizenship a meaning and they fluffed it.
It impossible to compromise, impossible to shut away uncontrollable egos for one single minute, in order to fight for a cause that transcends us all – a right to freedom.
We remind all sides of their 2017 pledge to allow the roughly 5 mn British in Europe and EU 27 citizens living in the UK to carry on living their lives in the same way as before Brexit. This is all the more urgent because the vast majority of both groups – 60% in the case of the 1.2mn British in Europe – were unable to vote in the 2016 Referendum that would have a direct impact on our future.
The existing withdrawal agreement is far from perfect– for example it does not include the free movement that so many of our members rely on for work and to keep their family together. However, it is certainly far better than what would happen in the case of a no deal.
As such, both sides have a special duty of care to agree to do the right thing as quickly as possible, so that the people most directly affected by Brexit, and without a say about it, can get on with their lives with certainty.
Is it so difficult to understand that citizens’ rights should not be modified retroactively? Is it such a difficult thing to ask that the albeit incomplete agreement reached on citizens’ rights in December 2017 be ratified no matter what? As mentioned by British in Europe, a process of registration post Brexit instead of application would be a step in the right direction and could be presented as an EU directive, something that the EU comes out with day-in day-out. Of course, that would mean that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would have the possibility to oversee things in the UK and infringe in no meager way on one of Theresa May’s infamous red lines.
But what the hell. We are only talking about people’s freedom, here. The fact that the ECJ has, in the eyes of the UK, the word “injustice” carved all over its blue face, makes it impossible to compromise, impossible to shut away uncontrollable egos for one single minute, in order to fight for a cause that transcends us all – a right to freedom.
Michel Barnier’s comments, implying that citizens’ rights are part of a global package, are nothing less than cynical and have made EU citizenship at best expendable, at worst non-existent and meaningless.
It all shows you how eutopian my vision is…silly me. What ever made me think that citizens’ rights could transcend all other matters in the negotiating process, wipe out all prejudices and misconceptions, and bridge all differences?
As with all disputes, it takes two to chinwag. In refusing the ECJ to oversee any anomalies concerning EU citizens in the UK, Westminster has turned up the gas that is heating our deep pan fryer. In ducking the question of citizens’ rights by only “advising” member states to act “generously” regarding the Brits living in the EU, Brussels has made a mockery of the EU citizenship that it treasures but has no jurisdiction over. I suppose we must be grateful that most EU member states will not kick us out in the absence of a deal, and having to queue behind Somalians at the immigration office to collect our residence permit is a small price to pay for Brexit. No offence to Somalians, of course.
Citizens’ residence and social security entitlements
Member States had prepared or adopted national contingency measures before 12 April 2019 to ensure that UK nationals and their non-EU family members could remain legally resident in the immediate period after a ‘no-deal’ withdrawal.
To provide further clarity, the Commission has provided an overview of residency rights in the EU27 Member States. This will continue to be updated.
If the EU values citizens’ rights, it should be prepared to globally adopt a single directive to ensure that our rights are not severely curtailed. If the UK values citizens’ rights it should accept that EU citizens living in the UK be protected by the ECJ. The fact of the matter is that neither side has budged an inch or moved a centimeter in an attempt to reassure millions of EU citizens who remain innocent bystanders caught in the incessant cross-fire between London and Brussels.
Let no one tell you that Brussels cannot dictate what each Member State can or cannot do with EU citizens who have not yet been stripped of their citizenship. Let no one argue that a directive from Brussels would be nothing less than interfering with national immigration policies. This is about the unconditional protection of rights that are so good as acquired. It is about statuting on the loss of EU citizenship following the withdrawal of an EU Member-State. It is about preserving inalienable rights after Brexit.
Article 20 of the EU Treaty states that,
Citizenship of the Union is hereby established. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.
What happens when a Member-State leaves the Union is not explicitly mentioned. Does the wording imply that the citizens of a Member State that withdraws from the Union will no longer be EU citizens? One can argue that because the benefits of EU citizenship have been enjoyed by so many for so long, it has gone from being “additional,” to being autonomous and distinct from national citizenship. This implies that EU citizenship could not be removed because this leads to a substantial loss of fundamental rights, free movement in particular. This right to free movement forms a fundamental part of what EU citizenship means, the loss of which will be detrimental to many British citizens currently living in the EU.
Surely, exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures. Guaranteeing our citizens’ rights should have come from the very top of the EU administration. Michel Barnier’s comments, implying that citizens’ rights are part of a global package, are nothing less than cynical and have made EU citizenship at best expendable, at worst non-existent and meaningless.