Category Archives: UK/Parliament

Our right to return to the UK with our non-UK families

British in Europe have long been lobbying Westminster about issues  affecting UK in EU within the UK Immigration Bill. This is crucial legislation for us as it removes our existing right to return to Britain with our non-UK families. From March 2022 they will come under the tough British immigration rules, meaning that we will have to be earning £18,600 a year and our partner’s income will only count if s/he has been earning in the UK for more than six months. Continue reading Our right to return to the UK with our non-UK families

The Internal Market Bill – BiE’s statement

Following the extraordinary events in the UK Parliament this week we have, along with the3million, published a statement calling for the PM to give a statement in the House confirming that the UK will honour all its commitments to EU citizens in the UK and to its own citizens in the EU.

Read the statement in full here. The text is below.

 

British in Europe and the3million were dismayed to hear the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland stand up in the House of Commons on 8 September to confirm that it is the UK’s intention
to break international law and breach the agreed and ratified terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol and to see that confirmed in the Internal Market bill published on 9 September.

The most immediate impact of this announcement will of course be felt in the island of Ireland, North and South, where it has given rise to all sorts of concerns including as to the possibility of
renewed violence. As a coalition of citizens’ groups, British in Europe, and the3million, the largest grassroots organisation representing EU citizens in the UK, we would like to express our solidarity with the citizens of all Ireland in the face of this dangerous volte -face.

However, we would also like to draw attention to the knock-on effect the announcement may well have for those whom we represent.

After Theresa May rejected, before the start of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations, the option simply to confirm automatically the existing rights of over 5 million EU and UK citizens
living in the UK and the EU, this group of 5 million people have been anxiously waiting to know whether they would be able to continue to live their lives with their families and their livelihoods
in the countries where they reside. Together we have spent four years in limbo, with the spectre of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on citizens’ rights lasting until the end of last year.

In January 2020 we finally hoped that the signature and the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement meant that our worst fears would not be realised and that we would at least salvage
enough of our rights to live our lives broadly as before and have relative certainty about what those rights would be.

We knew that implementation would be challenging in all 30 EU and EEA countries plus Switzerland but hoped that with good faith on both sides most of us would finally have some peace of mind about our futures by the end of 2021 at the latest.

It appears that this hope was naïve. With this simple but devastating statement in the House of Commons and the publication of the draft bill, all certainty has vanished.

Since Sunday night we have been receiving anxious enquiries from our members about what a breach of the Northern Ireland Protocol could mean for the implementation of the citizens’ rights chapter of the Withdrawal Agreement and for their futures.

It is particularly worrying for the hundreds of thousands of UK nationals living in the EU member states which are following the UK’s lead and requiring them to reapply for their status and rights
– especially where implementation has not started. France, home to the second largest population of UK nationals in the EU, falls into this category.

In the UK, the3million has been encouraging EU citizens to apply for status via the EU settlement scheme believing their right to live, work and access services in the UK to be secure. The UK
government risks further eroding the trust that EU citizens have in the safety that settled status will provide them.

The statement in the House of Commons and the published bill send a clear message to the EU that if the UK does not intend to honour one critical part of the Withdrawal Agreement, it cannot be trusted to implement other parts of the Agreement, including on citizens’ rights. The calls that followed from some Conservative MPs for the Agreement to be scrapped reinforced that message. The Member States will rightly now question whether the UK will honour its
obligations towards over three million EU citizens living within its borders. Levels of trust were already low but this unprecedented act of bad faith towards our nearest neighbours and
partners throws 1.2 million UK nationals living in the EU under the bus yet again. The extent to which trust has been undermined by the UK government’s actions this week is clear in the very
frank statement from Commission Vice-President Šefčovič on 10 September.

By putting forward this Bill, the UK has seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK.

Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst economic recession in fifty years was bad enough. Dealing with the consequences of the actions of a government that acts with no regard for the security of its nationals abroad, nor apparently for the rule of law, will be infinitely worse.

We now ask Prime Minister Johnson to do the decent thing and make an urgent statement in the House confirming that the UK will honour its obligations towards EU nationals in the UK and its own citizens living in the EU in the full spirit and to the letter of the Withdrawal Agreement.

We appreciate that any statement by the Prime Minister would now count for very little. The statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the publication of the draft internal
market bill cannot be undone. However, as the EU pointed out in its statement yesterday, “it is now up to the UK government to re-establish… trust.”

Confirming that the UK will honour all its commitments under the citizens’ rights chapter of the Withdrawal Agreement would be a start to that process and should be done as a matter of
urgency.

We also call on EU countriesto stand by their obligations to us under the Withdrawal Agreement, and thereby reaffirm the importance of the rule of law and of honouring the promises that were
made to us. Together, both of our organisations shall continue to press the UK government to show that the UK still stands for decency by keeping its word and honouring its obligations to
citizens in full.

Evidence to Parliamentary Select Committee

At the end of April 2020 British in Europe was once more asked by the UK Parliamentary Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union to provide evidence. We have already given oral evidence twice to this committee, which is chaired by Hilary Benn, as well as written evidence.

This time, our views  on 9 specific questions was requested.

Continue reading Evidence to Parliamentary Select Committee

Expert Observers – Part 2

On the 30th March British in Europe and the3million wrote a joint letter 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. Read it in full here: Expert Observers.

In response, we received a letter from Wendy Morton,  Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas, thanking us for the work we do and explaining: “As you are aware, experts and other persons can be invited to provide information on a particular subject. The co-chairs have not invited external participants to the first meeting. However, they are aware of your request and will take it into consideration for future meetings.” Read the letter here.

We have written again to the UK Government and the EU Commission with some of the more important specifics that we would like to see discussed and resolved ahead of the first meeting of the special sub-committee of the Joint Committee on citizens’ rights.

Alongside a request for clarification regarding the legal
status of Guidance Note issued last week, the initial list of concerns includes:

1. Withdrawal Agreement implementation

1.1 Issues specific to British citizens in the EU

1.1.1 Implementation timeline across Member States

1.1.2 Interaction of Withdrawal agreement rights and Third Country National rights

1.2 Issues specific to EU citizens in the UK

1.2.1 Restrictions to Status under the EU Settlement Scheme

1.2.2 Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (‘CSI’) and access to the NHS

1.2.3 EU Settlement Scheme status updates by new identity documents

1.3 Issues related to both groups of citizens

1.3.1 Impact of COVID-19

1.3.2 Application deadline of constitutive application schemes

1.3.3 Documents evidencing proof of status under the Withdrawal Agreement

1.3.4 Extension of the Grace Period – Article 18(1)(c)

1.3.5 Issues of implementation and application procedure – Article 18 obligations

1.3.6 Status of children in care and others

1.3.7 Transparency and Data Protection

1.3.8 Dual EU/UK nationals evidencing their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement

2.  Ancillary issues directly related to the Withdrawal Agreement

2.1 Return to country of origin after transition, accompanied by family members

2.2 Travel and visa requirements for non-EU family members of EU and British citizens

Read the full letter here with the supporting information.

We look forward to engaging with the committee further and proactively throughout the duration of the implementation process.

Quarantine policy – a letter to the PM

The Prime Minister recently confirmed in the House of Commons that the UK will implement a period of quarantine/self-isolation by the end of May for all travellers arriving in the UK except for those coming from France or Ireland.

We have written to him and his Ministers to request that this decision is reviewed and extended to all UK and EU/EEA/EFTA citizens arriving from EU/EEA/EFTA countries, be it by air, rail or sea.

It is discriminatory to exempt a UK national living in France from 14 days self-isolation but not a UK national living in Greece. Furthermore, there is no scientific basis for this decision given that very many countries in the EU/EEA/EFTA region have had far fewer cases of COVID-19 and recorded far fewer deaths from it than France.

This is not questioning whether or not there should be a quarantine, that is for the Government to decide. However, we are protesting against the differing treatment of British citizens who reside in France to those that reside elsewhere in the EU. There should be no difference in our treatment, especially where the implemented policy could lead to some of us losing our livelihoods in an already difficult period.

Read the letter in full here and the text is below:


12th May 2020

Dear Prime Minister,
Dear Foreign Secretary,
Dear Home Secretary,

We write on behalf of British in Europe representing 1.2 million UK nationals living in the EU. We note that the Prime Minister confirmed in the House of Commons that the UK will implement a period of quarantine/self-isolation by the end of May for all travellers arriving in the UK except for those coming from France or Ireland. We are asking you to review this decision and to expand the exempted category to all UK and EU/EEA/EFTA citizens arriving from EU/EEA/EFTA countries, be it by air, rail or sea.

It is discriminatory to exempt a UK national living in France from 14 days self-isolation but not a UK national living in Greece. Furthermore, there is no scientific basis for this decision
given that very many countries in the EU/EEA/EFTA region have had far fewer cases of COVID-19 and recorded far fewer deaths from it than France.

The COVID-19 pandemic is going to be with us for a long time – certainly until we have a safe, effective and widely available vaccine – but that is months, if not years away. Implementing this quarantine decision without an exemption for UK and EU/EEA/EFTA nationals means that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of us will be effectively prevented from returning to the UK, be it for business, leisure or family reasons, for the foreseeable future. Those of us
who need to work in the UK on a cross-border basis may find ourselves unable to keep our jobs or businesses running in our EU state of residence. In turn, this could affect our ability
to meet economic requirements for residence in our host states under the Withdrawal Agreement. And, as death rates climb in the UK, those of us with family there may simply not see them again unless we can travel to the UK over the summer.

We hope that you will reconsider this decision – as President Macron did when France contemplated a similar step two weeks ago – and provide the requested exemption. This is a time of great unease and concern for everyone and this simple step would at least remove this key concern.

Yours sincerely,

UK Government allocates fund to support UK in EU

The UK Government has today released details of the funds allocated to support UK Nationals in the EU which can be read here.

BRITISH IN EUROPE STATEMENT

Brexit is an unprecedented political and legal event in EU and UK history. Over a million UK nationals live in the EU, EEA and EFTA countries and all of us are affected by Brexit and its consequences. This new legal situation we face is complex and we need advice and assistance in this next phase of Brexit. UK nationals have hundreds of questions relating to the intersection of citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, other parts of EU law and national immigration law.

 “BiE asked the UK government to set up a support fund for UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and EFTA states in 2018. It has been a long wait but at least contracts have now been signed with seven organisations[1] to provide registration assistance to UK nationals in this critical first year of Withdrawal Agreement implementation in the EU and EFTA region,” explains Jane Golding, Co-Chair.

These organisations will be performing a critically important role. Many lives and livelihoods, particularly those of vulnerable and hard to reach UK nationals, will depend on the advice and assistance that they provide. This will be especially true in the countries – around half of EU Member States – where UK nationals are being made to reapply in order to remain. BiE looks forward to receiving more information from the contracted organisations and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the assistance that will be provided and in which countries, although we note that not all of the twenty seven EU countries will be covered[2].

“Effective and meaningful monitoring of the advice provided will be key and we look forward to hearing about the mechanisms that have been put in place to do this over the lifetime of the contracts,” says Fiona Godfrey, Co-Chair. “In some member states, implementation of the citizens’ rights chapter of the Withdrawal Agreement will not start until late 2020 or even 2021.  This will provide very little time to find the people who need to register, especially in the constitutive countries. People cannot be allowed to fall through the cracks, advice must not be wrong and mistakes must not be made: Organisations may get a second chance but hundreds of thousands of UK nationals may not. Lives hang in the balance.”


[1] The AIRE Centre, Age in Spain, Asociación Babelia, Cyprus International Financial Services Association, Franco British Network, International Organisation for Migration, SSAFA

2) To our knowledge, only Spain, France, Germany, Cyprus, Italy, and several other EU countries will be covered.


For further comment, please contact us.

Response to BiE from Ben Macpherson

On 28 August Jeremy Morgan and Mireille Pouget of the3million met Ben Macpherson, the Scottish Government Minister for Europe, to discuss citizens’ rights for EU citizens in Scotland and Britons in Europe. The Scottish government has been open to the problems both of EU citizens living there and of Scottish (and other UK) citizens in the EU. The meeting was productive and Ben promised to follow up on several points.

Read his detailed response HERE.