Expert Observers

With the3million, we have written to both the UK Government and the EU Commission requesting that representatives of our organisations be given a  role on the specialised subcommittee on citizens’ rights.

The full letter can be downloaded here and is reproduced in full below…

Dear Mr Gove,
Dear Mr Šefčovič

 As the Joint Committee established by the Withdrawal Agreement meets for the first time on 30 March we are  writing to you as representatives of the3million and British in Europe regarding the specialised sub-committee  on citizens’ rights and our participation therein.

 British in Europe and the3million represent British citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK. We
have been involved and have inputted into the discussions and negotiations on citizens’ rights from the very
start of the process (our organisations were established shortly after the Brexit referendum) and our first joint  meeting took place with Michel Barnier on 28 March, 2017. More information about both our organisations is  available at www.the3million.org.uk and britishineurope.org.

Given that the stated first priority of both parties since 2016 has been to secure the rights of citizens caught up  in a situation not of their making, we are writing to request that representatives of our organisations be given a  role on the specialised subcommittee on citizens’ rights. We fully appreciate that it is up to the parties to
nominate representatives but we also understand that there is provision for experts to attend the meetings and to provide input.

This is not new and is a feature of many international negotiations in other areas of policy. For example, when  the Conference of the Parties for the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control established working  groups to develop guidelines on the implementation and oversight of the Convention, civil society
organisations were invited onto the working groups as expert observers and contributed positively to the
development of the guidelines.

We also have the current example of the five missions on cancer, climate change, food and soil, oceans and  smart cities, whose boards include representatives of civil society. The missions are not international treaty  negotiations but they are shaping EU policy and research agendas and priorities and will have a major influence on international as well as EU policy in the decades to come. As you are aware, citizens’ engagement is a key  priority for these missions and for the Commission.

Why should British in Europe and the3million be expert observers?  

  •  We have a proven track record of providing well-informed legal analysis of citizens’ rights issues – see the
    numerous papers we submitted to both sides’ teams during the negotiations, as well as to the UK  Government, the European Commission, the UK and European Parliaments and the governments and  parliaments of Member States.
  •  We have detailed knowledge of the issues that arose during the negotiations concerning the citizens’  rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement  – we were briefed privately by both parties’ teams before and after each round of the citizens’ rights negotiations and commented on each successive draft of the  Agreement.
  •  Drawing on our widespread network of members we can provide up to date evidence of implementation  of the WA across the EU and UK, and of any systematic problems being experienced in any country. This  “canary in the coalmine” role will be particularly important in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic  which may delay implementation, especially in the EU where most member states have yet to start  implementation, and given the difficult economic conditions that all our countries will face as a result for  the foreseeable future.
  •  We can be trusted to maintain confidences.  Most briefings to us have been provided on a confidential  basis and we have always respected those confidences.
  •  We have earned the respect of both sides’ teams, including UK Ministers and civil servants on the one hand  and the Commission’s negotiating team, EU Council team and European Parliament’s Brexit steering group  on the other.

Both parties have consistently emphasised the importance of citizens in the Brexit process. Inviting us to  participate in the specialised subcommittee would demonstrate a concrete commitment from you to your  citizens. The coronavirus pandemic is changing our societies, our economies and how we do politics on a daily  basis. The lives of EU and UK citizens and residents are being prioritised over all other concerns. Let’s reflect these seismic changes from the very beginning of the discussions on the implementation of the Withdrawal  Agreement by giving the3million and British in Europe a seat at the table because there should be “nothing  about us without us”.

Yours sincerely,

Dimitri Scarlato                                                 Fiona Godfrey
the3million                                                        British in Europe