Friday, 8 December 2017

Britons in the EU complain of a 'raw deal'

Britons living across the EU have today accused the Prime Minister, Theresa May, of selling them “down the river”.

British in Europe, which is a coalition of groups who represent Britons living in Europe, claimed that Theresa May had “sold 4.5 million people down the river” by scrapping the rights of citizens in her bid to secure progress in the negotiations with the EU.

Another group, The3million, which represents citizens from the rest of the EU living in the UK, today expressed “grave concerns for the future” following the announcement this morning of a new proposed agreement between the EU and the UK.

The migrants – Britons there, and EU citizens here – are worried that their rights will be “buried” and forgotten in the phase two trade talks with the European Union.

Of particular concern of the Brits abroad is whether they will retain the right to cross borders in the EU to go to work in the EU27 countries of the EU, plus Norway, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Iceland, as they are now.

This, they say, is already leading to uncertainty, worry and disruption for them.
UK citizens who move elsewhere in the EU before Brexit day will have the right to stay in that country.

After Brexit, the freedom of movement principles will not be the same for UK citizens living in the EU as for EU citizens living in Britain.

Jon Worth, a UK citizen living in Germany, told the BBC, "I can still go and take a day trip to (Poland), or go on holiday to (Italy) unrestricted, after Brexit day. But I could not move to live in Italy or Poland without restriction."

The worries of both British and EU migrants were today reflected by Guy Verhofstadt, MEP, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator.

Although he welcomed the new proposed deal as a whole, he warned that free movement for British citizens in the EU had to be guaranteed. In addition, he asserted that EU citizens living in Britain should not have to face any costs for the right to stay after Brexit.

Also, he said, the rights of EU citizens to live with future partners or spouses had be taken into account.

The European Parliament would veto the deal unless all three conditions were met, he said.

The UK and the European Commission have agreed to a reciprocal deal that will apply to both sides. This has yet to be ratified by the European Council, that consists of the heads of the EU27.

The Council meets next week to discuss the deal.

It’s yet to be seen how Tory Brexit back benchers will respond to the new proposed agreement, and Parliament is yet to debate the finer points of the agreement, that was thrashed out overnight and announced early this morning.

The Prime Minister has agreed that British courts will recognise European Court of Justice judgements for eight years when specifically ruling on EU citizenship issues.

She also agreed that relatives of EU citizens here will be able to join them if they are already living in an EU country.

In addition, benefits and healthcare for EU citizens here will continue under the current rules.

But EU citizens settled in the UK will not be allowed to return to the UK if they have left the country for more than five years.

Commented Jane Golding, the chair of British in Europe, “This deal is even worse than we expected.

"After 18 months of wrangling the UK and EU have sold 4.5 million people down the river in a grubby bargain that will have a severe impact on ordinary people’s ability to live their lives as we do now.”

She told The Independent, “This is a double disaster for British people living in Europe.

"At the moment, not only is it unclear whether we keep our automatic residency rights, but it looks like we can also kiss goodbye to continuing free movement beyond any agreed transition period – which so many of us who work across Europe rely on to support our families.”

She added, “The UK wasted a precious opportunity to take up the EU’s comprehensive offer on citizens’ rights back in June. Instead, they decided to link the status of EU nationals in the UK to immigration, which resulted in the subsequent horse trading and significantly worse status that we all may face now.

"Looking ahead to Phase Two of the talks – if it takes 18 months to produce something this bad then imagine what’s going to happen once citizens’ rights get buried under all the trade arguments about airline slots and fish carcasses.

“We urge the European Parliament not to endorse this deal when they vote on it next week in Strasbourg.”

Concerns were also expressed by Nicolas Hatton, founder of a group of EU citizens living in the EU, called the ‘3million’.

He said, “Although it’s a relief that there is now an agreement between the EU and the UK after 18 months, the quality of the deal must be assessed and we have grave concerns for the future as the EU has given the British Government the green light to implement settled status.”

Mr Hatton additionally told the BBC this afternoon, "Our rights should not have an expiry date.

"More worryingly, there is still no clarity around the registration criteria for these rights. There are a huge number of people still in the dark about whether they will qualify or not."

"Hundreds and thousands of them might get a letter that they have to go" he added.

Ekaterina Griffin, German university course coordinator, who’s been living in London for 15 years, told The Guardian that she was distraught that her rights protected by the European Court of Justice would only be guaranteed for eight years.

She expressed further concern that it appears her ‘settled status’ in the UK won’t be for life, as she anticipated, but only for a limited period.

She said, “We now need to start making preparations to leave the country, which hurts me immensely. I am distraught to find after 15 years that my whole life here was built on sand. I am hurt by the lack of solidarity from a lot of British people.

"Essentially, after 18 heartbreaking months, I want our lives back.”

Carmine, an Italian support worker, who has lived in the UK for seven years, also told The Guardian, “I am concerned about my livelihood and for that of my British partner.

"I have already acquired my permanent residency card, with a lot of sacrifice and expenses, but see no clarity as to what this latest agreement might mean going forward.”

She added, “In theory, we should be treated as we were, with no further problems.”

* The saying, ‘sold down the river’, originally referred to slaves in the USA who had been "sold down the river" to be auctioned off to plantation owners. Today, being sold "sold down the river" signifies a profound betrayal.


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