EPLP statement on citizens’ rights

European Parliamentary statement on Brexit negotiations and rights of UK citizens residing in the EU and EU citizens residing in the UK.

This is an important issue for Labour MEPs – we continue to call on the British government and European Commission to provide stronger guarantees for these rights in the ongoing Brexit negotiations, and we will continue discussing priorities with civil society groups to push for a deal on citizens’ rights in the ongoing Brexit negotiations that provides certainty.

The European Parliament has been consistent in its efforts to make citizens’ rights one of the priorities in the negotiations. This was made one of the priority issues in phase one in part because of the parliament’s insistence. We have also exerted influence throughout the talks, for example on 21 November the European Parliament’s taskforce on citizens’ rights, established by members from a majority of political groups including Labour MEPs Claude Moraes and Seb Dance, met with the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to present our concerns and stress the importance of citizens’ rights. Leader of the Labour MEPs Richard Corbett has also met with Mr Barnier to underline these points.

As chair of the European Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, Labour MEP Claude Moraes takes part in the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group meetings to coordinate the parliament’s position on the Brexit negotiations, particularly with regards to issues related to citizens’ rights and the Irish border. We have been successful in influencing the negotiations by defending the rights of future children of EU citizens legally residing in the UK and UK nationals legally residing in the rest of the EU at the time of the withdrawal.

Labour MEPs voted in favour of the European Parliament resolution of 13 December 2017 which noted that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made in the negotiations. However, the resolution clearly states that not all issues in relation to citizens’ rights have been solved in this first phase. The resolution takes up many of the concerns of citizens’ rights campaigners, which we share, by stressing that we want to see: “a clear and unambiguous legal text” extending coverage of citizens’ rights to future partners; light-touch administration procedures enabling families to initiate action using a single form; the creation of an ombudsman to act on citizens’ complaints; and, crucially, a guaranteeing of the future free movement rights across the whole EU for UK citizens currently resident in the EU-27.

With the Brexit talks entering the second phase, Labour MEPs will continue to push for the rights of British citizens in the EU-27 and EU citizens in the UK. In our exchanges with the EU negotiating team in Brussels we were reassured that citizens’ rights are the priority for the EU chief negotiator, and we will continue to work with colleagues to push for a final agreement that will protect citizens’ rights in a manner that will allay the concerns of UK citizens in the EU-27 and EU citizens in the UK.

Finally, the European Parliament civil liberties committee will hold a hearing on Brexit with experts and civil society organisations in February 2018. This will provide us with an opportunity to scrutinise progress on outstanding issues and new developments in the negotiations, following the hearing on citizens’ rights held in May 2017.

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