At the request of ALDE First Vice President Sophie In’t Veld MEP, who has set up a Task Force within the European Parliament to fight for the rights of EU citizens in the UK, the European Parliament today held a joint hearing on the rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit.
Liberal and Democrat MEPs are determined that a mutual agreement on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU will be a priority in the Brexit negotiations. ALDE MEPs will only give their consent for Brexit negotiations to move from phase one to phase two, when an adequate arrangement for citizens is in place.
Cecilia Wikström MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, said:
“Following the Brexit vote, we have received a number of petitions from many thousands of EU citizens who are deeply concerned about their status and future rights. We have a responsibility to put people before politics and to end the cloud of uncertainty that has descended over so many people’s lives.”
Commenting ahead of the parliamentary hearing today Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator said;
“There are over 4 million EU citizens living in the UK or British citizens living in the EU, so the importance and scale of the issues to be resolved should not be underestimated by either side. We are determined to ensure that EU citizens in the UK can continue to lead their lives as they are today.”
“In the forthcoming negotiations we will seek to protect and guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK on the basis of EU law, guaranteed by the Court of Justice of the European Union. I expect negotiations to be complex, but without an ambitious deal, it is unlikely the European Parliament will give its consent for negotiations to move on to discuss our future relationship. We have a lot of work to do to agree our divorce terms, before we can discuss the future and we intend to put citizens first.”
Sophie In’t Veld MEP, founder of the MEP Task Force on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, commented before the hearing;
“More than 3 million EU citizens have used their right to free movement and made a life for themselves in the UK. Many of these three million have been living in the UK for years, if not decades, and have contributed to British society. They have fallen in love and married in the UK, they have built a career in the UK, bought a home, and have children or grandchildren in the UK, many of whom have British nationality.”
“MEPs are united in their determination to remove the considerable uncertainty created for so many people by the Brexit decision. Despite some media reports to the contrary, the EU has made a reciprocal agreement on the rights of citizens our number one priority. It is extremely disappointing that the UK authorities refused our invitation to attend our hearing today. As soon as negotiations start, which have incurred an unfortunate delay as a result of the decision to hold a snap election in the UK, this will be the first item to be discussed.
“EU nationals who have lived and contributed to the UK do not have a vote in this so-called Brexit general election and I fear they will feel even more isolated and fearful as the election campaign progresses. The EU task force will continue to represent EU citizens in the UK. We have a moral obligation to fight for their rights to be safeguarded. We appeal to all EU governments to declare unilaterally that, in any case, British citizens in EU-countries won´t have to leave post-Brexit.”