The “Brexit breakthrough” purportedly clinched by British prime minister Theresa May yesterday (Friday) has been slated by a leading citizens’ rights campaign group.
“British in Europe” has described the ‘deal’ allowing talks to move to the so-called second negotiation phase as “even worse than we expected”.
It has “failed to protect the rights of 4.5 million British people living in Europe and EU nationals living in the UK”, and effectively turned these citizens into “bargaining chips”.
“This is a double disaster for British people living in Europe”, said the group’s social media post.
“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’.
“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”.
British in Europe’s chair Jane Golding told Sky News yesterday that the “really big issue is free movement.
“What has been guaranteed by this deal for British citizens in the EU is their rights in the country where they are residing now, but that means that they will not have free movement across the rest of the EU”.
“A great many” of the group’s members are ‘cross-border workers’ for whom the right to free movement is “really important to their livelihoods”, she added, stressing that these are people who “have already moved and are already living their lives in another country”.
They “were told, by both sides, that they would be able to carry on living their lives as they do now”.
Monique Hawkins of the group “The3million” – representing EU nationals resident in the UK – said the deal appears to involve EU citizens being required to apply for rights they currently enjoy, “instead of simply having those rights certified”.
“The consequences of failing in application are disastrous”, she said, outlining her own situation as a Dutch woman resident in England for the last 25 years: Last year, she applied for permanent residency and was “rejected”. Due to the fact that Britain has not yet left the EU, she managed to stay to fight her ground, But, she said, under the terms of the ‘deal’ forged between Theresa May and EC president Jean-Claude Juncker, she would find herself frozen out of the UK, with bank account/s, employment contract, access to healthcare, driving licence, etc., closed down.
Sky’s anchor stressed it is “still early days”. The deal has not been voted on and the real picture for UK nationals in Europe and EU citizens resident in the UK will only become clear after all negotiation phases have been completed.
Elsewhere, the station outlined what it considers to be the key points of the ‘breakthrough’, involving a British settlement payment of €40-45 billion.
“Mrs May says the Brexit agreement will guarantee the rights of the three million EU citizens in the UK who can “go on living their lives as before.”
“EU citizens living legally in the UK will be allowed to remain in the country in line with current freedom of movement principles.
“The deal also allows their family members who do not live in the UK, including spouses, parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren, to join them in future.
“The guarantees outlined in the document also apply to UK citizens living in EU countries”.
Thus, the confusion.
As Sky’s Political Editor Faisal Islam admits, this “Brexit fudge recipe might yet leave bad taste”, as “the really difficult negotiations” are still to come.