The campaign – lobbying MEPs on citizens’ rights in November 2017
In the next EU Council meeting on 14-15 December, the decision will be taken as to whether sufficient progress has been made in Phase 1 of the negotiations in order to move on to Phase 2. Phase 1 includes Ireland, the financial settlement, and – of course – citizens’ rights. British in Europe is clear that as things stand, there is still a good way to go before our rights can be said to be fully protected.
If the European Commission recommends a ‘sufficient progress’ decision – and there are currently political moves afoot on both sides to make this happen – we fear that there is a risk of a political stitch-up, where progress falling well short of protecting our rights is certified by the EU to be “sufficient” just so that the sides can move on to discussing trade. It’s more vital than ever that the European Parliament holds the line over the next three weeks.
We urgently need to recruit MEPs across the EU27 as our allies, which means we need to help them to 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’. On 20 November the British in Europe steering team wrote to every MEP – 751 of them! – setting out the issues; now it’s time for everyone to do the same. 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 so that you know why this is so important and why we’re hoping that thousands of you will participate!
Why are the next three weeks so crucial?
The test of “sufficient progress” is an essential protection for both UK citizens living in the EU, and EU nationals in the UK. If the negotiations move on to matters beyond the first phase before there has been complete agreement on all the key issues on citizens’ rights, we could see horse-trading of, say, recognition of qualifications in exchange for some aspect of market access by either side.
If that happens we will be bargaining chips in the full sense of that phrase. In order to prevent that from happening, any agreement reached on citizens’ rights must be protected so that it cannot be opened up later for use as leverage to gain some collateral benefit. The current state of the negotiations poses a clear risk of there not being any agreement on all the first phase issues.
Why lobby MEPs?
For many reasons … but here are 6 of the most compelling:
ONE Education and awareness raising. There is a very big difference between green boxes on the joint technical note at the end of a negotiation round, and genuine protection of the indivisible bundle of rights that allow us to live our lives as we do now. This is a complex area and many politicians and political actors are simply not aware that an agreement on paper on citizens’ rights may actually compromise our rights in the real world. We need to educate and raise awareness amongst MEPs of all parties and groups on the current issues surrounding UK/EU citizens’ rights, in particular of what still needs to be guaranteed and why. Many will be unaware of the complexity around this subject and in particular of the indivisibility of the rights we currently hold. We – those who are directly affected in the real world – are in the unique position of being able to communicate all of this clearly to our European representatives.
TWO To raise the public profile of UK citizens in the EU and of the British in Europe coalition. We in British in Europe can sometimes find that we struggle to gain interest in, and recognition and understanding of, the particular and distinct issues facing UK citizens living in the EU – for example, the loss of freedom of movement. There is a widespread misconception that ‘the EU will look after us’ and therefore 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.
THREE To ensure that citizens’ rights stay at the top of the negotiation agenda, especially as interest has now shifted towards the financial settlement. Both sides of the negotiating table have stated that agreement on citizens’ rights is “within touching distance”. We disagree with this statement and have made the point that further movement will be necessary by both parties on several serious outstanding issues before our rights are fully protected. In speeches in Florence both Michel Barnier and Theresa May have committed to ensuring that “Brexit does not alter the nature of people’s daily lives.” This should be the core test by which the position of each side should be judged and we need to make sure that citizens’ rights negotiations remain ‘live’ until that point is reached, otherwise there is a real risk that in the rush to move on to phase 2, our rights could be sold down the river by a compromised agreement.
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 MEPs to ask relevant questions in their European Parliamentary groups and committees, and to open dialogue and create relationship with MEPs which can then be built on during the remainder of the negotiation period and through the drafting of the withdrawal agreement.
SIX Because doing something is always better than doing nothing.
How to go about it
We have 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 MEPs to write to
To get maximum coverage we would like you to write both to the MEPs who represent your previous region in the UK, andthose who represent you in your EU27 country of residence. Some EU27 countries are also organised by region, but most are not – in which case simply write to all of them, or if that’s too much, to a selection of them. So begin the process by finding the relevant MPs and making a list of the names of those you’re going to contact.
Use this link to check which region you’re in in the UK if you’re not sure – it will also tell you who your MEPs are (but please don’t use it to send your letter): https://www.mysociety.org/wehelpyou/contact-your-meps/ .
If you know your regions, this European Parliament search site is the easiest way to find out who your MEPs are: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/search.html?
2. Find the contact details of your selected MEPs
You should now have a list of several MEPs, split between your country of residence and in the UK. You can find contact details for your MEPs by clicking on their names on the European Parliament site above, but we’ve created a spreadsheet with all MEPS, listed by country (and region if appropriate), party and group in the European Parliament, and contact details.
Access the spreadsheet here: http://bit.ly/MEPSpreadsheet then just scroll down until you find your country.
3. Send our pre-written email to your MEPs
We have email templates in English and in Italian, French, German and Spanish. Please use whichever is appropriate for your MEP. You’ll just need to add some basic details about your personal situation in the same language as the template, so if you don’t feel confident enough to do that in another language, please select the English language template. If you’d like to adapt the letter to include a personal message, please go ahead – just make sure that you keep all the key information.
Please ensure that you include your previous UK address in your letter to your UK MEPs, and your current address in your letter to the MEPs for your home country – if you don’t, you may not get a response.
You’ll need either to download the templates(s) from the links below then save as an editable document, or (easier) you can simply copy and paste into the body of an email or into a new document.
If you live in an EU27 country that uses another language and are able to translate the template, please go ahead and do so. It would be great – and really helpful to our campaign – if you could forward a copy of your translated template to us at British in Europe so that we can make it available to others in your country – just send it via email to this address.
If you’re a Twitter user, tweet a copy of your letter to your MEP as well to increase the chances of reaching them.
4. Find a friend! (Or better, several)
Please ask at least one friend or member of your family also to take part in this important lobbying campaign. We need as many participants as possible if we’re to reach the inboxes of a large number of MEPs; you almost certainly know other UK citizens living near you who won’t see this ‘call to arms’ without your help. All it takes is a simple email from you asking them to get involved, and a link to this page. Please help us make a difference to all our futures.
4. Send us a copy of any replies you receive from your MEPs
We’ll be capturing and collating the replies and follow-up emails that you receive from any of your MEPs; 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 do get responses from your MEPs, please do email them back and get into a conversation with them. Many MEPs are actually very responsive to their constituents, and 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 impact our campaign will have. Real life stories are always effective!
6. Become a ‘lobby mentor’
Once you’ve sent your own letters to your MPs, 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.
And finally …
Thank you for taking part in this crucial campaign to protect our rights. Please get started today – the resolution on ‘sufficient progress’ will be drafted in early December so we don’t have long to make sure our views are heard and taken into account.
Just an hour of your time today could prove to be the very best investment in your future that you can make.