Fight for your citizens’ rights – lobby your MP
Since the December agreement, citizens’ rights have all but disappeared from the Brexit debate. Ministers and other politicians from all parties have been putting out the message that citizens’ rights are now done and dusted; the media has picked this up and run with it too. This is, however, far from being the case and it leaves us in yet another dangerous kind of limbo.
We urgently need to help MPs understand what’s at stake …
… and the very real risks we face of losing rights that are essential to our ability to ‘live our lives as before’. At the beginning of March 2018, British in Europe wrote to every MP setting out the issues in a clear and detailed way; now it’s time for every member of every group to join in and support the campaign.
All the resources you need to take part in this campaign are further down this page or in direct links from this page – but please read everything before you begin so that you know why this is so important.
Put simply, although some issues have been agreed, others have not.
Put simply, although some issues have been agreed, others have not. Free movement for British people living in the EU, along with associated economic rights, was deemed to be ‘outside the scope’ of Phase 1 of the negotiations and the draft legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, published by the European Commission on 28 February 2018, doesn’t include this or the other outstanding issues.
It’s absolutely vital that these issues are discussed and agreed in Phase 2 of the negotiations – and they must be given at least equal priority to that afforded other issues such as Northern Ireland.
But there’s a real concern that they could get lost in the huge mass of issues now to be discussed, such as airline slots, trade quotas and fishing rights. And until the final agreement is signed, none is this is set in stone although it is unlikely that what has been agreed so far will be changed.
If our outstanding issues were to be deferred to discussions on the ‘future relationship’ – as seems likely – this could mean that they are not addressed for years to come.
WE HAVE TO ACT NOW … WE CAN’T LET THE BUSINESS OF OUR RIGHTS REMAIN UNFINISHED!
How to take part in the lobby … in five simple steps
We’ve made this as simple as possible so that anyone can participate, whether you have ever lobbied before or not. Simply follow these steps:
1.Find out which MP to write to, and get their contact details
Find the MP whose constituency covers the last address you lived in when you were in the UK. Don’t worry if you’re no longer on the electoral register because of the 15 year rule – write to this MP regardless.
Find your MP here, by entering the postcode or constituency: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/.
Or use this spreadsheet: http://bit.ly/MPSpreadsheet.
2. Bone up on some lobbying ‘good practice’
Have a quick look at this guide to find out more about how to lobby effectively – or to remind yourself if you’re a seasoned campaigner!
3. The crucial bit – send an email or letter to your MP
We’ve prepared a template for you to use as the basis of your email or letter. We strongly suggest, though, that you spend a bit of time making it your own rather than sending it ‘as is’. It’s very important to keep the main points, but template emails have been very much over-used in the last few years and when used by hundreds or thousands of people only serve to devalue the overall impact of a campaign.
Make sure that you personalise your email or letter as much as you possibly can – especially the first couple of paragraphs, which are the first to be read. It will take a bit longer but it’ll be very much more effective, and you’ll demonstrate that you’ve done more than simply copied, pasted and clicked a button. Don’t forget that standard emails will get (at best) standard responses!
If you’re a Twitter user, tweet a copy of your letter to your MP as well to increase the chances of reaching them. You’ll find MPs’ Twitter handles on this spreadsheet: http://bit.ly/MPSpreadsheet.
4. Send us a copy of any replies you receive from your MPs
We’d like to capture the replies and follow-up emails that you receive from your MP; please forward any responses you receive (apart from autoreplies) to email@example.com.
Don’t be discouraged or disheartened if you don’t get a response – it certainly doesn’t mean that your letter has been ignored. Remember that the Number One goal of this kind of lobbying is education and awareness raising and you’ve almost certainly achieved that.
5. Get into conversation
If you get a response from your MP – even if it’s not quite what you hoped for – please do email them back and get into a conversation with them. Don’t get into an argument, and don’t attack or antagonise your MP … remember that we’re looking for allies. The more you can share with them your personal story and how any loss of your citizens’ rights in future could impinge upon you personally, the more you bring home the realities of the issues and the more impact our campaign will have. Real life stories are always effective!
Once you’ve sent your own lobbying email … help your fellow members and become a ‘lobby mentor’
Once you’ve sent your own email or letter to your MP, please help other people in your group to find their way through the process themselves, by answering their questions, helping them with any technical problems and generally encouraging as many people as possible to participate.
Find a friend (or better, several)
There’s another really important part of this lobby – we ask you to enlist the help of at least one friend or relative who still lives in the UK, and ask them to contact their MP to raise citizens’ rights issues directly.
Please ask at least one friend or member of your family to take part – MPs need to know that those living in the UK are also deeply concerned about the rights of British citizens in the EU, and they will only do that if they hear directly from those living in their constituency.
Ask a member of your family or a friend if they will make an appointment at their local MP’s surgery to raise the issues in this campaign. They don’t need to live in the same constituency as you once did – in fact the wider reach we have the better. If that’s not possible, ask them to email or send a letter to their MP. You’ll find a suggested template for them to use here.
Why lobby MPs?
For many reasons … but here are 6 of the best:
ONE Education and awareness raising. This is far and away the most important aspect of the current lobbying campaign. For this reason, we urge you to write to your MP whichever party they stand for and whatever you may know about their political leanings. Citizens’ rights issues should cross party and ideological boundaries; even the prominent Leave campaigners suggested before the referendum that rights would be fully retained after Brexit.
Don’t be cross with your MP for not fully understanding that citizens’ rights have not been sorted. This is a complex area and many politicians and political actors will simply not realise that an apparent agreement on paper may actually compromise our rights in the real world. Grassroots MPs are confronted every day with a huge amount of detailed information over an enormous range of subjects, and it would be unreasonable of us to expect that they be experts in every issue!
So whatever your personal feelings, please cut your MP some slack: it’s up to us to educate and raise awareness amongst MPs of all parties on the current issues surrounding our citizens’ rights, in particular of what still needs to be guaranteed and why. We – those who are directly affected in the real world – are in the unique position of being able to communicate all of this clearly and from a uniquely personal perspective.
TWO To raise the public profile of UK citizens in the EU and of the British in Europe coalition. We in British in Europe have found that we sometimes struggle to gain interest in, and recognition and understanding of, the particular issues facing us as UK citizens living in the EU – for example, the loss of freedom of movement. Even amongst more knowledgeable MPs, there is a widespread misconception that our rights are less at risk than EU citizens in the UK. As we know, that is not the case: we all face similar loss of rights. We need to ensure that our voices and our specific issues are heard, while continuing to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends, the EU citizens in the UK.
THREE To ‘win friends and influence people ‘. In short: we need allies and champions in Parliament. And we need them now.
FOUR To raise awareness of the need for ring-fencing or a separate citizens’ rights agreement, with direct effect, that would stand even if talks on other issues were to break down before March 2019.
FIVE To encourage MPs to write to David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, and to Theresa May, to ask them both to do their utmost to keep our issues on the agenda during Phase 2 and to ensure that we remain a priority both for the British government and for the EU while negotiations continue.
SIX Because doing something is always better than doing nothing!
And finally …
Thank you for participating in this crucial campaign to keep the ‘unfinished business’ of our rights on the negotiating table. Even if you’re not personally concerned by those issues that remain to be settled, please take part and support those who stand to lose their livelihoods and their planned futures.
Please get started today – the clock is ticking. Just half an hour of your time could prove to be a sound investment in your future.