News | Published June 18 2019

Brexit Secretary reaches out to EU over agreement on citizens’ rights

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has approached the EU over a separate agreement on citizens’ rights should the UK leave the bloc without a deal.

Around 3.2 million EU nationals currently reside in the UK with around 1.3 million UK citizens believed to be living in EU states.

Conservative MP Alberto Costa proposed an amendment in February calling on Prime Pinister Theresa May to convince Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, to agree to separately guarantee the rights of EU citizens in a no-deal scenario.

The amendment won the support of 141 MPs in the Commons and was accepted by the government without being voted on.

Costa welcomed Barclay's approach to the EU, saying: "The UK government has finally taken seriously the Costa amendment and with the spectre of no deal appearing ever closer, the UK government are worrying about how to protect the rights of British citizens in the EU.”

Costa added that negotiating a separate agreement is something that must be done “given that the UK will shortly have a new prime minister with very little time to negotiate anything of substance with the EU ahead of the 31 October deadline”.

Theresa May’s negotiated withdrawal agreement guarantees citizens’ rights but has failed to pass through Parliament on three occasions.

Nevertheless, she has promised that EU citizens residing in the UK will be allowed to remain under a no-deal scenario.

May’s agreement would see UK citizens in the EU and vice versa retain both their residency and social security rights, while anyone taking up residency in the UK or an EU state during the transition period will also be given right to remain in that country after the transitional period.

Permanent residence would also be open for application to anyone staying in the same EU country for five years or more.

Those who already have a right to permanent residence in the UK will not see their rights affected even in any event.

May also said that EU citizens in the UK before Brexit are able to apply for settled status to allow them to both reside and work.

However, the outcome of a no-deal for UK expats living in France, Spain, Germany and elsewhere remains unclear, with rules and deadlines for residency applications differing between each EU member state.

The EU’s stance on safeguarding the rights of citizens’ is that the negotiated withdrawal agreement is the best option, although the bloc has pledged to leave no UK citizen residing in the EU "in the dark".

Barclay initially wrote the to chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier back in March, to which he responded that ratifying the withdrawal agreement was the “best way to safeguard the rights of the citizens affected by the UK's withdrawal”.

Barclay also suggested in his March correspondence that support “from parliamentarians in the European Parliament and other member states" for the negotiation of a separate citizens' rights agreement was "growing" and that the UK and EU should make "a sustained effort" to address these issues.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
June 18 2019

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