EU citizens, British expats rally for post-Brexit rights

Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at the Houses of Parliament. London, September 2017. [Neil Hall/EPA-EFE]

Hundreds of EU nationals living in Britain were joined for the first time on Wednesday (13 September) by British citizens living in the EU for a day of protest in London to demand that MPs protect their rights after Brexit.

Nicolas Hatton, co-founder of the3Million lobby group, told AFP that the rights of citizens should be “ring-fenced from the rest of the negotiations”.

Hatton, a Frenchman who settled in Britain 22 years ago, said the campaign was aimed at “basically keeping the same rights as we have now”.

As part of the protest, EU citizens living in Britain contacted their local MPs and arranged to meet them in parliament on the same day in a “mass lobbying”.

Brexit talks place citizens' rights in limbo

Brexit negotiators will face “extraordinarily complex” talks over the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British expats in Europe, according to sources in Brussels.

The post-Brexit fate of around three million European citizens living in Britain and over one million UK nationals living in the EU is one of the most contentious issues in the negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the 28-member bloc.

Britain’s proposal to offer permanent rights over healthcare, education, welfare and pensions to Europeans who arrive before a cut-off date was branded “pathetic” by the3million group when it was unveiled in June.

EU leaders also slammed the proposal as insufficient.

UK offer is far from what citizens are entitled to

The European Parliament’s political leaders and Brexit Steering Committee members condemn the UK’s “damp squib” of an offer on the rights of EU citizens and insist they will refuse to endorse a Brexit deal that strips EU citizens of their acquired rights.

A leaked official document posted on the Guardian’s website last week proposed a new system for EU citizens arriving after Brexit, with those wishing to stay long-term needing to apply for a two-year residence permit.

“The aim of today is really to raise the profile of our issues, especially for UK citizens living in the EU,” Jane Golding, chair of the British In Europe lobby group, told AFP.

“Understandably, EU citizens in the UK are much more present and people are more aware of their situation then ours,” the Germany-based British lawyer added.

“I think there seems to be a misconception that we’ll all be OK and our right will simply be confirmed”.

Negotiating teams for Britain and the EU are due to reconvene in Brussels at the end of the month for a fourth round of talks after Britain started a two-year countdown to Brexit in March.

Sharp rise in EU citizen departures after Brexit vote

The number of EU nationals leaving the UK rose sharply to 122,000 people in the 12 months leading up to the end of March, in the biggest increase in a decade, after the country voted to leave the European Union.

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